Compelling, dark, spectacular
by Alessandro Bizzotto
2023 will mark the forty-fifth anniversary of the creation of Kenneth MacMillan’s masterpiece. Alessandro Bizzotto saw it in Stuttgart and in Paris, and discussed the roles of Crown Prince Rudolph and Mary Vetsera with four interpreters: Elisa Badenes and Friedemann Vogel at the Stuttgart Ballet, and Hannah O’Neill and Stéphane Bullion at the Paris Opera Ballet.
Watching MacMillan’s Mayerling is always a thrill. I never leave the theatre motionally wrung out – that’s strange, but the ballet charges me in some way. It was created in 1978, but it still retains its charm and its explosive power, and it keeps intact its freshness and astonishing intensity. It is entred on Crown Prince Rudolf, Sissi and Franz Joseph’s son, who killed himself with his 17-year-old lover Mary Vetsera in the hunting lodge of Mayerling, in 1889.
I first saw it at the Royal Opera House. Leanne Benjamin was Mary Vetsera. It was a real stroke of lightning. Several companies staged Mayerling this year, thirty years after Kenneth MacMillan passed away because of a heart attack at the Royal Opera House during a performance of this ballet. Rediscovering it in Stuttgart last summer, three years after the 2019 première, was a pleasure. Jürgen Rose’s new sets and costumes are smashing. Attending a couple of performances in Paris, then, was a new occasion to find out new sides of this ballet, which entered the Paris Opera Ballet’s repertoire last October.
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