Mayerling Kenneth Macmillans Ballet

Jan Leeming

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

MAYERLING - Kenneth MacMillan's Ballet

Date: 5th June 2013


I am an incurable romantic and having seen the film of Mayerling ages ago, I’ve always wanted to see Kenneth MacMillan’s Ballet of the same name which he choreographed in 1973.

Not sure why it is so rarely performed because it is absolutely stunning.

I don’t really enjoy going to the Theatre solo, but reckoned that, as the Ballet isn’t staged that often, if I missed it this time, I mightn’t be around next time!!

Words fail me – from the moment the curtain rose on this glorious period drama, I was hooked. As the cast processed across the stage in fantastic costumes of the late 17th Century Austro-Hungarian Empire style, you knew you were in for a treat and there wasn’t a tutu in sight. The music is by Liszt and though not being very well versed in the Classics, I’d always thought of Liszt as one of the lighter composers. His music was chosen for the Ballet Mayerling and there are very dark moments.

I’ve often felt that male ballet dancers have a raw deal in that they rarely get much of a chance to shine and are predominantly relegated to being the ‘lifter’ for the Prima Ballerina. In Mayerling the men really come into their own – not just the lead dancer but half a dozen other males as well have superb ‘routines’. (Forgive me if I don’t know the correct Ballet language)

I was prepared to be disappointed because I’d booked my seat on the back of a critique in The Week which praised to the skies the dancer Edward Watson. I suppose if I were a regular Ballet goer I’d have known how to access the information as to which performances would be given by him. So the day before, I was disappointed to discover that he wouldn’t be dancing on Wednesday. Of course, I have nothing with which to compare but I can’t think that he could have been better or displayed more emotion than did our Prince Rupert – Johan Kobborg. He must have been exhausted at the end as must have been Alina Cojocaru playing his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera.

The end was so well staged with the actual deaths behind a screen and then ‘revealed’. I am afraid I find deaths in Opera quite comic when you have some ample diva expiring from TB or something else and taking 10 minutes to finally croak.

I had given up buying programmes a few years ago. Originally I’d kept every theatre programme since I started going to the theatre decades ago and eventually gave them to the Royal Theatrical Fund. I think some of them were quite rare. However I did buy the programme on Wednesday – it was modestly priced and full of information.

I’d no idea that the suicide/murder of Prince Rudolph  led indirectly to the assassination in Sarajevo which in turn led to the outbreak of  World WarI

So, I’m mystified as to why Mayerling is not regularly performed. Perhaps it is a trifle modern for the traditionalists. In fact, the lady sitting next to me didn’t come back to her seat for the third Act which seemed very odd unless she had to catch a very very early last train

It’s only on for a few more performances and I’d love to go again but it’s sold out. But if you want a superb ‘theatrical’ performance, are in London and could get some ‘returns’ – GO. It was expensive but worth every penny.

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