BWW Review: Royal Ballet's MAYERLING is Masterfully Macabre and Magnificently 'Executed' at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Saturday, July 6, 2019
The tortuous true story of Mayerling was first set to music composed by Franz Liszt, by Kenneth MacMillan, in 1978;
a giant Choreographer and Innovator
in the world of Ballet. MacMillan's Mayerling is the tragic story of the 1889 Murder/Suicide of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth's Syphilitic and addicted son, Prince Rudolf, and his teenage lover, Mary Vetsera. The Royal Ballet, which has not performed in Los Angeles in 24 years, has stepped out on a limb to present this groundbreaking work. This is not your usual Ballet Company fare. Contrary to the usual fluffy story about love conquers all, this is not that in the least. We find flawed and even demented characters pouring their hearts out, in the name of love and adoration. It was also the first time a male lead dancer took a solo alone, as well as a solo bow during the finale. A milestone in the Ballet World.
Each performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion contained different cast members, specifically in the lead roles. Opening night, the previous evening, had the acclaimed Natalia Osipova in the lead role as Mary, and her partner, as Rudolf, Ryoichi Hirano. This review is only of the following evening, although I know of many in the dance world who saw the performance and raved about the performances.
Matthew Ball, playing Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary, is in complete control of his immensely difficult role, as the anguished, death-infatuated Prince, who cannot decide who he should have an affair with next, and who will, truly, win his heart, as in death do us part...
As the tale plays out, we first meet him as he is wedding Princess Stephanie, a purely political move on his part, to establish his inclusiveness with the Royal Kingdom, all the while lusting over the varied women who willingly provide his needs. Many ladies are up for grabs, as far as he is concerned. During and after the ceremony, he is obsessively tempted to stray and betray at every turn, with his mistress, his other more regular mistress, his mistresses' mother, his mother, making him twist and turn in his own skin as he becomes deluded with everything going on and decides to live in a fantasy world where what he wishes to be true is true. It sets in motion a most tragic outcome, vividly portrayed through passionate, technically difficult body movement that pierces your memory with those images filled with such deep emotion, needing, obsession and feeling.
There is a plethora of women Rudolph was entangled with, and even though I got the gist of the story, at times I was confused as to which women were doing which scene with Rudolph. Sometimes their wardrobe threw me off. They were all very technically brilliant. Several scenes included rather violent depictions of sexual innuendo, although so artistically done that it was ultimately intriguing and fascinating to watch. Artistically, it was sublime.
Sarah Lamb is exquisitely suited for any role given her. Her ethereal quality and litheness, vulnerability and exactness gives her so many options to deliver a role with authenticity. Besides her stirring version of Mary Vetsera, on this evening, I know she also portrays other roles in this ballet, as well as working with Wayne MacGregor in a leading capacity. She was sublime as Mary, capturing all the emotion and intensity the character demands, with fluidity and grace.
Itziar Mendizabal, as Countess Marie Larisch/Empress Elizabeth, is outstanding in her convicted portrayals of tortured women under Rudoph's spell. She is a beautiful dancer as well.
James Hay, as Bratfiech, Rudolph's traveling partner and premier entertainer, is skillfully eye-catching during his appearances on stage, and delivers a breathtaking performance of difficult leaps, turns, spins and multiple pirouettes. He gives us the impetus to get to the conclusion of all this confusion.
As Rudolph's regular mistress, Mayara Magri gives a touching and deep performance as Mitzi Caspar, who Rudolph treats as home base for licking his wounds.
There were lifts and catches that, frankly, astounded me. There were moments of sheer ecstasy, sheer despair, unbridled anguish and a weird accepting recognition that enveloped me as an observer. This ballet truly mirrors the circumstances and conveys the story with not a spoken word, but through dance and intensely emoting through it.
The exquisite technique of The Royal Ballet Company's members is unquestionable. It is a superb company in every respect. Affording many of the company's vital performers the opportunity to shine at different times is an asset, I believe. As a whole, they have progressed in their mastery of preserving and glorifying the works that have come before us. It's essential, the chronicling of these ballets.
In lieu of photos from the live performance:
This is the remarkable cast (pictured at right):
Thank you to all the truly artistic contributors; Koen Kessels, Conductor extraordinaire, Choreography, Kenneth MacMillan. Arranged and Orchestrated by John Lanchbery, Designed by Nicholas Georgiadis, Scenario, Gillian Freeman, Lighting Designer, John B. Read, Staging, Ricardo Cervera, for making this a reality with such care and accuracy.
Photos courtesy of Alice Pennefather, Andrej Uspenski and The Royal Ballet