Mayerling (ballet)
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Mayerling Ballet

Alina Cojocaru Johan Kobborg Laura Morera Mayerling.JPG
Alina Cojocaru, Johan Kobborg and Laura Morera at the curtain call of Mayerling
ChoreographerKenneth MacMillan
MusicFranz Liszt, arranged by John Lanchbery
Premiere14 February 1978 (1978-02-14)
Royal Opera House
Original ballet companyRoyal Ballet
GenreNeoclassical ballet
Typeclassical ballet

Mayerling is a ballet choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan to the music of Franz Liszt, arranged by John Lanchbery, scenario by Gillian Freeman and designed by Nicholas Georgiadis. The ballet is based on the Mayerling incident, a series of events surrounding the apparent murder-suicide of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria (21 August 1858 - 30 January 1889) and his lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera (19 March 1871 - 30 January 1889). The ballet premiered on 14 February 1978, at the Royal Opera House, danced by The Royal Ballet, with David Wall as Prince Rudolf and Lynn Seymour as Vetsera.[1][2]


Characters from Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling, via The Ballet Bag

Prologue: The cemetery at Heiligenkreuz before dawn

Act I

Scene 1: The ballroom at the Hofburg Palace, Vienna

A ball to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary and Princess Stephanie of Belgium is in full swing. Rudolf flirts shamelessly with Stephanie's sister, Princess Louise, offending both his new bride and his parents, Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth. Rudolf meets Countess Marie Larisch, a former mistress, and Baroness Vetsera. The Baroness introduces her 17-year-old daughter Mary Vetsera. Four Hungarian officers, friends of Rudolf, enter and forcefully argue the separatist cause of their country. Countess Larisch tries to rekindle her relationship with Rudolf. The pair are discovered by the Emperor, who demands that Rudolf return to his wife.

Scene 2: The Empress's apartments at the Hofburg

Having retired from the ball, Empress Elisabeth is being attended by her ladies-in-waiting. Rudolf visits his mother, on his way to his new bride. He expresses his deep unhappiness at being pressured into marriage. Desperate for maternal affection he tries to embrace the Empress, only to be coldly rebuffed.

Scene 3: Rudolf's apartments at the Hofburg

Princess Stephanie is getting ready for her wedding night. Rudolf enters and threatens Stephanie with a revolver before forcing her.

Act II

Scene 1: A notorious tavern

Rudolf and Stephanie enter the tavern in disguise. They are accompanied by Rudolf's driver Bratfisch, who attempts to lighten Stephanie's spirits. Prostitutes compete for the men's attention and Stephanie flees the tavern in disgust. Rudolf turns his attention to his Hungarian friends and his regular mistress, the courtesan Mizzi Kaspar. The police burst in and Rudolf, Mitzi and the Hungarian officers hide. The police arrest several people before leaving. In a despairing mood, Rudolf proposes a suicide pact to Mitzi. The Prime Minister Count Taaffe enters the tavern, looking for Rudolf. Rudolf hides again but Mitzi tells the Count where he is hidden. The Count and Mitzi leave together.

Scene 2: Outside the tavern

Countess Larisch, ostensibly chaperoning Mary, presents the young girl to Rudolf as he leaves the tavern.

Scene 3: The Vetsera house

Countess Larisch calls on her friend Baroness Vetsera. She finds Mary absorbed by a portrait of Rudolf. Countess Larisch tells Mary's fortune using a pack of cards and informs her that her romantic dreams will come true. Mary gives the Countess a letter to deliver to Rudolf on her behalf.

Scene 4: The Hofburg

During the Emperor's birthday celebrations Count Taaffe confronts Rudolph over an incriminating political pamphlet on the Hungarian cause. Colonel 'Bay' Middleton hands the Count a joke cigar, to Rudolf's intense amusement. The Empress presents the Emperor with a portrait of his 'friend' Katherina Schratt. A firework display distracts everyone except the Empress and 'Bay.' Rudolf notices their amorous exchange and becomes bitterly resentful. Countess Larisch produces Mary's letter and teases Rudolf with it.

Scene 5: Rudolf's apartments at the Hofburg

Mary and Rudolf meet in secret for the first time.


Scene 1: A royal shoot in the countryside

During a hunting expedition, Rudolf unaccountably shoots wildly. He kills a member of the court, narrowly missing his father.

Scene 2: Rudolf's apartments at the Hofburg

The Empress discovers Countess Larisch and Rudolf alone together and angrily dismisses the Countess, unaware Mary is waiting outside. Mary enters after the Empress has left. Rudolf asks her to commit suicide with him.

Scene 3: The hunting lodge at Mayerling

Rudolf shares a drink with Count Hoyos and Prince Philipp of Coburg, attended by his valet Loschek. He asks them to leave, saying he is unwell. Bratfisch enters with Mary. Rudolf instructs Bratfisch to entertain him and Mary. Bratfisch, soon realizing he has lost their attention, leaves. In a mounting frenzy Rudolf makes love to Mary. He injects himself with morphine to calm his nerves and embraces Mary for the last time. He shoots her. Loschek, Hoyos and Philipp rush in, having heard the shot. Rudolf reassures them and instructs them to leave. Alone, he shoots himself. His friends rush in again, and collapse in despair when they find Rudolf's dead body.

Epilogue: The cemetery at Heiligenkreuz before dawn

Original production

Mayerling was first produced for the Royal Ballet in 1978, by the British choreographer Sir Kenneth Macmillan, with a scenario written by Gillian Freeman,[3] scenery and costume designs by Nicholas Georgiadis and lighting design by David Hersey. Music for the ballet was compiled from existing works by Franz Liszt, arranged and orchestrated by John Lanchbery who also conducted the orchestra during the ballet's first season. The ballet was dedicated to the Royal Ballet's founder choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton and premiered at the Royal Opera House, London, on 14 February 1978. The Royal Opera House collections have archive information from twelve performances of this ballet, including the premiere and subsequent revivals.[4][5]

Critical reception

The original production was, in general, well received by critics, however there were some reservations. Many reviewers found the ballet overly long and the historical background of the story difficult to follow. However, Mary Clarke in the Guardian defended the complexity of the work: "Easy, after one or two viewings, to say this or that scene must go. But patience and understanding bring rewards; every scene tells something about Rudolf and the Court of Vienna in his time."[6]

Other productions

In 2013, Stanislavsky Ballet danced Mayerling for the first time, with Sergei Polunin as Rudolf.[7]

In 2017, Houston Ballet became the first North American company to perform Mayerling. The performance came shortly after Hurricane Harvey, which led to the company switching theatre. Connor Walsh danced Rudolf on the opening night.[8][9]

In 2019, Stuttgart Ballet presented a new productions, with new sets and costumes by German designer Jürgen Rose It was the first time that Mayerling was performed in different sets and costumes. Friedemann Vogel was cast as Rudolf.[10]

The Paris Opera Ballet was originally scheduled to debut Mayerling in May 2020,[11] but the performances had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.[12]


Role Character Description World premiere[2] New York premiere (1983)[] Moscow premiere (2003)[13] Stanislavsky Ballet premiere (2013)[14] Houston Ballet premiere[9] Stuttgart Ballet premiere (2019)[15]
Crown Prince Rudolf Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary David Wall Wayne Eagling Irek Mukhamedov Sergei Polunin Connor Walsh Friedemann Vogel
Baroness Mary Vetsera Mistress of Crown Prince Rudolph Lynn Seymour Alessandra Ferri Mara Galeazzi Anna Ol Karina Gonzalez Elisa Badenes
Princess Stephanie Wife of Crown Prince Rudolph Wendy Ellis Karen Paisley Laura Morera Melody Mennite Diana Ionescu
Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary Father of Crown Prince Rudolph Michael Somes David Drew Egon Madsen
Empress Elisabeth Mother of Crown Prince Rudolph Georgina Parkinson Sandra Conley Nicola Tranah Jessica Collado Miriam Kacerova
Countess Marie Larisch Lady in waiting to Empress Elizabeth and former mistress of Crown Prince Rudolph Merle Park Genesia Rosato Sara Webb Alicia Amatriain
Archduchess Sophie Mother of Emperor Franz Josef Julie Wood Gail Taphouse Marcia Haydée
Bratfisch Private cab driver to Crown Prince Rudolph, also a popular entertainer Graham Fletcher Ricardo Cervera Adhonay Soares da Silva
Mizzi Kaspar A high-class prostitute and Crown Prince Rudolph's regular mistress Laura Connor Marianela Nuñez Yuriko Kajiya
George "Bay" Middleton Empress Elisabeth's lover David Drew Christopher Saunders


The Royal Ballet released three DVDs of Mayerling. The first, released in 2008, featured Irek Mukhamedov as Crown Prince Rudolf, Viviana Durante as Baroness Mary Vetsera, Lesley Collier as Countess Marie Larisch and Darcey Bussell as Mitzi Caspar.[16] Another DVD, recorded in 2009 and released in 2010, starred Edward Watson as Crown Prince Rudolf and Mara Galeazzi as Baroness Mary Vetsera.[17] The most recent one, released in 2019, with Steven McRae as Crown Prince Rudolf, Sarah Lamb as Baroness Mary Vetsera, Laura Morera as Countess Marie Larisch, Kristen McNally as Empress Elisabeth, Meaghan Grace Hinkis as Princess Stephanie and Mayara Magri as Mitzi Caspar.[18] The recording with McRae was broadcast on BBC Four in 2020.[19]

In addition, In light of the impact of the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic on the performing arts, Stuttgart Ballet released a recording of a performance online, with Friedemann Vogel as Crown Prince Rudolf, Elisa Badenes as Baroness Mary Versera, Alicia Amatriain as Countess Marie Larisch, Miriam Kacerova as Empress Elisabeth and Adonhay Soares da Silva as Bratfisch.[20]


MacMillan died of a heart attack on 29 October 1992, backstage at Covent Garden at a revival of Mayerling.

See also


  1. ^ "Mayerling". Royal Opera House. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Mayerling - 14 February 1978 Evening". Royal Opera House Collections Online.
  3. ^ Gillian Freeman, 'The making of Mayerling', in The Times, Wednesday 8 February 1978, p. 9, column B.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Ballet: Performance details". Retrieved 2011.
  6. ^ Different Drummer: The Life of Kenneth MacMillan by Jann Parry (2009), p.490.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Macaulay, Alastair (24 September 2017). "Review: After Flood, Houston Ballet Returns With a Romantic Masterpiece". The New York Times.
  9. ^ a b "Mayerling casting" (PDF). Houston Ballet. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 July 2020.
  10. ^ "The Stuttgart Ballet premieres new production of Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling". Ballet News. 8 April 2019.
  11. ^ "New season at the Paris Opéra Ballet". Dancing Times. 13 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Message to spectators of the performances of Mayerling at the Palais Garnier". Opéra de Paris. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ "Mayerling - 27 June 2003 Evening". Royal Opera House Collections Online.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Mayerling". Stuttgart ballet. Retrieved 2020.
  16. ^ "Liszt: Mayerling". Opus Arte. Retrieved 2020.
  17. ^ "Liszt: Mayerling". Opus Arte. Retrieved 2020.
  18. ^ "Liszt: Mayerling". Opus Arte. Retrieved 2020.
  19. ^ "The Royal Ballet: Mayerling". BBC. Retrieved 2020.
  20. ^ "Stuttgart Ballet - Mayerling - streamed archive recording of Stuttgart premiere". DanceTabs. 27 April 2020.

External links

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