The Marschallin, Princess von Werdenberg, is passionately intertwined with Octavian, a forbidden and younger lover disguised as a chambermaid. He tries to hide when the the Marschallin's cousin, Baron Ochs, arrives and announces his plans to marry Sophia, the young daughter of a wealthy merchant. The Marschallin suggests that Octavian bear the silver engagement rose to Sophia. Baron Ochs flirts with Octavian while boasting of his love conquests. Petitioners and others descend on the princess and Octavian manages to slip away. The baron harangues a lawyer about securing a dowry from his bride-to-be, and he sends Annina and Valzacchi off to find Octavian. Alone again, the princess becomes contemplative, remembering her own youth and marriage. By the time Octavian returns, her mood is completely turned around, and she rebuffs his advances, defensively insisting that he will eventually leave her. He denies it and she regrets her words. She sends the engagement rose after him.
Octavian arrives to present the rose to Sophia. The two fall in love. Baron Ochs displays crude behavior, disgusting Sophia, and Octavian vows to steal her away from him. Annina and Valzacchi catch the two as they embrace, and they send for Baron Ochs. A tussle ensues, between Ochs, Octavian and the servants. Ochs makes a fuss when his arm is grazed by Octavian's sword. Ochs nurses his wound, and Annina enters with a letter, allegedly from the chambermaid he had pursued, requesting a meeting. The baron is delighted, but neglects to tip Annina, angering her.
Ochs and the chambermaid (really Octavian, once again in disguise) sit down to dine alone. Even as "she" attempts to seduce the baron, he is unsettled by her appearance and by fleeting glimpses of Octavian's men, hidden throughout the room. Annina bursts in and accuses Ochs of fathering her children. The police wind up on the scene and the baron, desperate to save his reputation, says that Octavian is his betrothed. The princess appears and sets things right, clarifying Sophia's identity. The hoax is finally explained to Ochs, and he is banished. Though unhappy about losing her young lover, the Marschallin nonetheless makes the sacrifice and Octavian is united with Sophia.
Melanie Feilotter, OPERA America