Mayerling, Royal Ballet, October 2009

Leanne Benjamin as Mary Vetsera, Royal Ballet photo by Bill Cooper

This was the second night of the present run, with Johan Kobborg in the main role as the 30-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary. His death, with that of his mistress, the seventeen-year-old Mary Vetsera, in January 1889 inspired Kenneth MacMillan to create this ballet in 1978. The state authorities in 1889 attributed the two deaths to a suicide pact in which Rudolf killed her and then himself, but this was almost certainly a cover-up. When the Viennese Medical Institute examined Mary Vestera’s remains in the 1990s they concluded she had suffered severe blows to the head and there was no bullet hole. Rudolf had been shot, but not by his own gun. Although I’m not a conspiracy theorist, the events at Rudolf’s hunting lodge at Mayerling were certainly different from the official version, but there is no need to spoil a good story and MacMillan’s ballet is a darkly dramatic piece.

Kobborg portrayed the prince with care and restraint, allowing the choreography to show his libertine and allegedly sinister side. With Leanne Benjamin as Mary Vetsera we had a superb pair of dancers, and their pas-de-deux at the end of Act II flowed with freedom and spontaneity. Rudolf’s ex-mistress, Countess Larisch was beautifully danced by Laura Morera, showing great stage presence. Emma Maguire as Rudolf’s wife Stephanie did a fine job, and Helen Crawford as Mitzi Caspar, a courtesan and regular mistress to Rudolf, danced with panache. These are just a few of the dancers in a huge cast that worked very well together.

The music is by Liszt, arranged by John Lanchbery, and was conducted here by Barry Wordsworth. The present run continues until November 10th, and I shall report again after seeing a further performance.

Leave a Comment