There are casts, and casts… this is a cast! Opening a run of Mayerling performances this evening at The Royal Opera House sees Edward Watson in the role he’s come to dominate, Prince Rudolf; Mary Vetsera is played by Natalia Osipova, Countess Marie Larisch is Sarah Lamb, Empress Elisabeth is Zenaida Yanowsky, Princess Stephanie is danced by Francesca Hayward, Mitzi Caspar by Marianela Nuñez and Bratfisch is played by Alexander Campbell. An impressive line-up.
Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet tells the true story of the suicide pact between the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his teenage mistress in 1889. It is dark, it is powerful, and it received a standing ovation at its premiere in 1978. The score, arranged and orchestrated by John Lanchbery, uses music by Franz Liszt, and Nicholas Georgiadis’s designs conjure up the privileged and oppressive society of the Austro-Hungarian court.
MacMillan excelled in balancing the intimate with the grand, and no more so than here with the pomp of a royal wedding and the splendour of a ballroom in contrast with intimate scenes of such an intensity that it is impossible to not be moved and even disturbed by their frankness. Raw emotion of uncanny directness and force.
Watson, as Rudolf, the deeply disturbed Crown Prince which is one of the most demanding roles ever created for a male dancer, enters the psyche of his character to a disturbing degree. His psychological and emotional decline is charted in a series of shockingly violent pas de deux with the women in his life: his mother, his unhappy bride and his young mistress, the obsessive Mary Vetsera.