Vienna, in the golden age of the Empress Maria Theresa. The Feldmarschallin, beautiful and married, has a besotted young lover, Count Octavian. But Octavian is half her age, and the Feldmarschallin knows that one day she must give him up to a younger woman. How soon will that time come? When the boorish Baron Ochs charges Octavian to present a silver rose (a traditional engagement gift) on his behalf, Octavian comes face to face with the delightful Sophie; the Feldmarschallin is the first to realise what is going on.