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BWW Review: MAYERLING, Royal Opera House

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BWW Review: MAYERLING, Royal Opera HouseBWW Review: MAYERLING, Royal Opera HouseAs part of the Royal Opera House's #OurHouseToYourHouse series, the next full ballet streaming is the joyful, comic and enchanting La Fille Mal Gardée. Young farmhands, clog dances and ponies are the order of the day.

On the other end of the dance spectrum is Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling, the vivid dramatisation of the life of Crown Prince Rudolph and his death alongside his young mistress Mary Vetsera in 1889. A staple of the Royal Ballet's repertoire since its premiere in 1978, it is known for the rigorous demands on the central male dancer, but is demonstrated faultlessly in this 2018 performance starring Steven McRae with Sarah Lamb as his teenage lover.

The story begins with his hapless marriage to Princess Stephanie (a youthfully naive Meaghan Grace Hinkis). Nicholas Georgiadis' opulent designs are rich and evoke a vivid feeling of repressed courtly life.

Rudolph is a career-defining role, which means all eyes are on McRae, but the Royal Ballet can also offer an abundance of well-rounded ensemble performances. Hinkis' Princess Stephanie is overwhelmed by her regal positioning and desire to fulfil her regal duties. She fears Rudolph and is terrorised by him and her face expressively displays this, while at the tavern scene she is every inch the buttoned-up, prim and proper Princess against a backdrop of debauchery.

James Hay as Rudolph's private entertainer springs neatly across the stage, his spritely appearance perhaps masking a deeper despair. Laura Morera's Marie Larisch (Rudolph's ex-mistress) is richly layered; she demonstrates fine manipulation skills, taking great pleasure in her elevated position of power, but there are glimpses of her scrambling for Rudolph's attention amongst her professionalism.

Mayara Magri exudes great quality of movement and a luxurious upper body as Mitzi Casper. She is believable as the tavern's "top dog", but lacks a little impact in such a brief but feisty role.

A strong ensemble certainly adds to the appeal of this intricate story featuring such intriguing characters, but Sarah Lamb is every inch the leading lady, and the moment she is alone with McRae's Rudolph, the results are engrossing and explosive. I've heard it said that every pas de deux seems tame after you have seen Mayerling, and when the central partnership is this strong, you understand why.

Upon their first meeting, Lamb takes a long, deliberate bow, maintaining unbreakable eye contact with the Prince. She broods and she sails across the stage with some easy développés while Rudolph stands and watches utterly enthralled. As she takes glee in showing off her fetish for guns and death, a flicker of a smile crosses Rudolph's mouth before an impassioned duet. Together they are commanding as their infatuation spirals later in Act Three. The pair are too distracted by hatching their suicide pact to give any attention to Hay's ever-faithful Bratfisch before their inevitable, chaotic demise.

If you like your ballets set in reality, with high drama, no neatly tied-up happy ever after and the customary MacMillan servings of love, sex and death, Mayerling is a riveting and vital watch.

Mayerling is available on Marquee TV from today

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