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Jeremy Nicholas
Gramophone, April 2018

Kenneth MacMillan’s 1978 full length ballet tells the true story of the suicide pact between Crown Prince Rudolf, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his teenage mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera. John Lanchbery’s masterly orchestrations of Liszt’s music took in symphonic poems, several of the Transcendental Studies, the First Mephisto Waltz and some less familiar pieces for this dark and unsettling story. This DVD of a 2009 performance stars Edward Watson and Mara Galeazzi. © 2018 Gramophone

Gerald Fenech
Classical Net, December 2010

One of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan’s greatest creations, Mayerling remains to this day one of his most popular works. The reasons are several, but maybe the allure of the tragic story of Crown Prince Rudolf and his 17 year-old mistress Maria Vetsera seems to excite audiences worldwide. MacMillan’s objective and that of Gillian Freeman, his scenarist, was to eliminate much of the romantic flavor that surrounds this complex event and suggest something nearer to the truth. Obviously, in the process of transferring the story to the stage, history had to be edited and given viable theatrical form, but the result is an outstanding dramatic ballet which is also a remarkable story of a man trapped by society and his own morbid psyche.

Premiered on 15th February 1978 to ecstatic critical acclaim, the ballet includes several exceptional roles, most notably that of Rudolf, which presents one of the most massive challenges to a male dancer. Edward Watson’s interpretation is absolutely magnificent in its sensitivity, dignity and power to arrest our sympathy, despite the moral and physical degeneration of the protagonist. Mara Galeazzi as Rudolf’s mistress is also outstanding, and her portrayal of innocence being progressively violated and eventually destroyed makes hypnotic viewing. The minor roles are danced no less commandingly, and each artist delivers a performance of aplomb and precision.

Liszt’s music needs no introduction, but John Lanchbery’s arrangement and orchestration are marvelously inventive, and the dramatic impact of the story is superbly captured and portrayed. Apart from MacMillan’s choreography, this searing Royal Ballet production also retains the wondrous original scenery and costumes by Gillian Freeman, aspects of which were highly lauded at the premiere. Add John B. Read’s skilful lighting effects and the thrilling staging of Grant Coyle, Monica Mason and Monica Parker and you have the perfect chemistry to an experience of unimaginable almost unbearable intensity. A must of a DVD in exemplary state-of-the-art sound and vision.

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