Forty years after its American premiere at the Shrine Auditorium, Kenneth MacMillan’s MAYERLING—a tour de force of choreographic virtuosity and innovation, and the first full-length ballet constructed around a male lead—returns to Los Angeles for a three-performance engagement by the Royal Ballet at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
MAYERLING tells the story of Crown Prince Rudolf (1858–1859)—heir apparent to the throne of Austria-Hungary—his mistress Mary Vetsera, and the events leading up to their murder-suicide at Mayerling, the prince’s hunting lodge outside Vienna.
“Most of MacMillan’s ballets, descriptive or abstract, tackle themes of crisis and violence… The dramatic momentum of MAYERLING springs from a chilly dissection of both… The fast-moving scenario is exactly matched by the ferocious pace and energy of MacMillan’s choreography. The action revolves around the startling progression of duets for the two principal dancers: abrasive, threatening, erotic and geared almost without respite to destruction.
“MacMillan projects the dark underside of romanticism: the ballet has domestic interludes of great charm but they’re brief, the dominant mood is acrid, sour, and glitteringly dark.” — BryanRobertson, The Spectator, February 25, 1978
As Robertson points out, MAYERLING is famous for its numerous pas de deux and requirements of great stamina and artistry by its male leads. On opening night, Royal Ballet principal Ryoichi Hirano will dance the role of Rudolf. On Saturday night principal Matthew Ball takes over, and for the Sunday matinee, principal Thiago Soares is the Crown Prince. Principal Sarah Lamb dances the role of Marie Larisch on opening night and Mary Vetsera on Saturday night.
MacMillan—a former dancer who was the Royal Ballet’s artistic director throughout most of the 1970s and its principal choreographer from 1977 onward—died in 1992 at age 62, backstage at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, during a performance of a revival of MAYERLING.