In 18th century Vienna, when one of the nobility wanted to get married, he'd send a silver rose to his fianc e, borne by a special rosekavalier, or knight of the rose. That idea is at the heart of Richard Strauss' famous opera "Der Rosenkavalier" making its local debut at the Israel Opera in a very splashy production directed by Maximilian Schell. Schell won an Oscar for Judgment at Nuremberg in 1961 before turning his talents to directing opera. A spry 75, he premiered this production at the Los Angeles Opera last year. Opera lovers know the story of the wise and beautiful Marschallin (sopranos Noemi Nadelmann and Nancy Weissbach) whose aristocratic teenage lover Octavian (sopranos Stephanie Houtzell, Linda Pavelka) falls hard for her niece, Sophie (sopranos Chen Reiss, Ireni Kyriakidoy). Unfortunately she is promised in marriage to the lecherous and elderly Baron Ochs (basses Kurt Rydl, Gunter Missenhardt), and it's he who sends the rose to Sophie via Octavian. After some farcical adventuring and some touching soul-searching, all ends happily, and the young lovers are united. When the opera premiered on January 26, 1911 in Dresden, the audience was deliciously shocked and scandalized to view not only its first ever bedroom scene on a stage, but one that featured two women (one playing a man). The production designer is the internationally famed German artist, sculptor and photographer Gottfried Helnwein and he chose to color individually each of the three acts. Act I is blue to "represent the dawn and the gentle melancholy thereof." Act II is gold and yellow, the "colors of wealth and royalty," while Act III is red to denote its heady passions. To do all that takes time, so there'll be a half-hour intermission between each of the acts, bringing the total length of "Rosenkavalier" to four and a half hours. Not to worry. The opera house is ready. Operagoers can eat a leisurely dinner before the curtain rises - note this - at 7:30 p.m, or they can order meals to be picked up during either of the intermissions. The conductor is IO music director Asher Fisch, fresh from his triumph at the Metropolitan Opera in New York where he conducted "Rigoletto" in December. Rosenkavalier plays from March 17 - 28.