Der Rosenkavalier is an opera written by Richard Strauss that was first performed on January 6, 1911. The opera begins with the curtains closed, but when the curtain rises, we find the aristocratic Marschalin (Princess Marie Thérèse von Werdenberg), lounging in bed with her much younger lover, Octavian. Listen as the music begins, then, um, rises, quickens, reaches a fever pitch before it, um, comes to its climax with whooping horns and blaring trumpets, then descends as, well, you know what’s happening.

The whole opera is extraordinary and, like many operas of its era, extraordinarily long. But if you want to cut to the chase and listen to some of the most exquisite music ever written (Strauss requested that it be performed at his funeral), here is the trio (“Hab mir’s gelobt”) at the end of the opera. In this aria, the Marschallin realizes how much Octavian (sung by a mezzo soprano) and the young Sophie love each other, and decides to release him from their relationship so Octavian can marry Sophie.

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