Ballet review: Mayerlng
Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden London, WC2E 9DD
Royal Opera House – map
Performance date: 30 April 2013
Performance run: 19 April to 15 June 2013 (varied dates)
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Rating: ***** (out of 5)
Credits for this performance: Choreography – Kenneth Macmillan, music – Franz Liszt, Designs – Nicholas Georgiadis. Performers: conductor – Martin Yates, Crown Prince Rudolf – Bennet Gartside, Mary Vetsera – Mara Galeazzi, Countess Larisch – Hikaru Kobayashi, Princess Stephanie – Emma Maguire, Empress Elisabeth – Kristen McNally, Orchestra – Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
In the ballet, the main storyline focusses on Rudolf meeting his young lover Mary. He has a passionate affair and he ends up killing her. The choreography and dancing of the affair is entrancing and beautiful but at times it feels more like gymnastics than dance. In fact, Mayerling feels more like an opera than ballet as it is more about the story and characters than dancing. The story depicts the dancing instead of the other way around. Ie not every moment is composed of dance unlike some pieces where it feels like that. There is even an operatic scene in the production and perhaps we should qualify this as operatic dance and theatrical drama as the storyline and tale, through the characters’s development, is so strong.
The costumes, sets and music are all beautiful and you indeed feel like you have entered into the beautiful, rebellious (against the restraints of upperclass etiquette), late 19th century Austrian society. There are ballgowns, diamante, curled hair and corsets for women and tailcoats, white shirts and tights or trousers for men, and ruffles in clothing all around.
With the death (the production begins and ends in a graveyard) of various people by shooting, there is tragedy and palpable sadness throughout. The well-dressed dancers are beautiful and innocent and for them to be shot is sad and heartbreaking as the scenes, music and dancing are beautiful and there are almost moments of happiness at other pointsand these and life, like a candle, is snuffed out a minimum of three times in the production.
Visually beautiful scenes (cleverely coming across as vignettes within the bigger storyline) included the ball to celebrate Rudolf and Stephanie’s marriage, Empress Elisabeth’s apartments, a pub that Rudolf visited, fortune telling of Mary’s romance with Rudolf, the accidental shooting of a young man (by Rudolf), the dance by Rudolf and Mary that leads up to their shooting (again by Rudolf) and finally putting Mary into her coffin and into the ground, against the backdrop of a dark, snowy winter.
The Royal Opera House has given us a beautiful, tragic history lesson that reminds one of Anna Karenina – a tragic love story that ends in death due to upper class restraints however this ballet is based on reality.
Sumptuous and breathtaking costumes, performance, dance, lighting and props make you realise how short life, youth, health and good fortune can be. Maybe the dancing in Rudolf and Mary’s last scene could have been a little bit more active in parts but overall it is wonderful and tragic.
This is a stunning and amazing story and production. The ROH’s Mayerling is true genious, grace and transient beauty and points of stinging sadness.