Mayerling: "Emotionally exhilarating and exhausting"
Edward Watson and former dancer David Wall on the power of MacMillan's ballet.
Kenneth MacMillan’s masterful Mayerling is one of the most choreographically and psychologically rich full-length ballets in The Royal Ballet’s repertory. Based on the life of Crown Prince Rudolf, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it’s a dark work encompassing everything from love and lust to political intrigue; drugs and violence to insanity and suicide.
MacMillan began working on the ballet in 1977 when he was the Artistic Director of The Royal Ballet, creating the lead roles on David Wall and Lynn Seymour. When he retired from the position in 1978, it was to focus his energy on choreography; a decision triumphantly vindicated when Mayerling received a standing ovation on its premiere at a Royal Gala in 1978.
At the time of its premiere 34 years ago, Mayerling was the first full-length British ballet in which a male dancer had the central role. Current Royal Ballet Principal Edward Watson loves the work:
“There’s nothing like Mayerling – nothing so focuses on the male protagonist. The choreography is incredible to get into, and emotionally it’s completely exhilarating and exhausting.”
The lead role of the violent and tortured Crown Prince Rudolf of Vienna places exceptional demands on the dancer, requiring dramatic theatrical ability and interpretation as much as physical athleticism.
David Wall described the character in an interview with Mark Monahan for About The House magazine:
“The day after a performance of Mayerling, I used to feel as if I’d been run over by a steamroller. One has to have total confidence in one’s artistry and in the fact that one can be subtle within the role, and not just treat it as a big male virtuoso piece. It involves a lot of intelligence of interpretation… ”
The rollercoaster-like ballet is set to the dramatic music of Franz Liszt, arranged by John Lanchbery.
The Royal Ballet’s Mayerling returns on 19 April. Booking opens to the Friends of Covent Garden on 4 December and to the public on 15 January. The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from Celia Blakey, Lady Ashcroft, John and Susan Burns and Gail and Gerald Ronson through the Gerald Ronson Foundation.