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 Post subject: Mayerling
PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 10:28 am 
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Location: London UK
Mayerling is back at the Royal Ballet. I saw the Monday evening performance with Carlos Acosta and Leanne Benjamin and was interested in what the critics thought.

Clement Crisp was a satisfied but tearful customer:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/54e1fa3c-e77d-1 ... 10621.html

Debra Crane hits the nail on the head when she describes the ballet thus:

Quote:
It’s not quite a masterpiece of storytelling, however. With a bewildering cast of characters and a bloated scenario to accommodate them, MacMillan tries to cover too many narrative bases.


http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/ ... 636829.ece

Judith Mackrell went to the matinee cast with Watson and Galeazzi

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/theatre/danc ... 64,00.html

Zoe Anderson also saw the matinee cast

http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/thea ... 439770.ece

Sarah Frater saw both and makes some interesting comparisons

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/theatre/r ... d=23392117

Is Mayerling a good ballet or a bad ballet? During Monday night’s performance I had difficulty making up my mind. Spending the evening with two newcomers to the work, I found myself bogged down in endless explanations of who was who, their relations to one another and the history of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In a narrative ballet I’ve always considered it essential that the plot can be followed without repeatedly referring back to the programme in order to clarify just what is going on, but Mayerling with its numerous named characters is possibly the most confusing ballet to watch that I’ve ever sat through.

I went to the first night of Mayerling some 30-odd years ago and the reservations I had about the structure of the work then are still there decades later. Kenneth MacMillan sometimes had second thoughts about his ballets and in Manon he excised an entire scene after the first run. Mayerling could easily lose two. The strange hunting scene where Rudolf accidentally shoots and kills a courtier adds nothing to the narrative nor really does the scene where the countess visits the Vetseras at home and performs a strange fortune telling act. Both could go and not be missed.


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 Post subject: Edward Watson in Mayerling
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 4:51 am 
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Clement Crisp went to see Edward Watson as Rudolf in Mayerling on Tuesday and in a very enthusiastic review he compares him to Egon Schiele - very apt in my opinion.

Here is the review:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/121ce94c-edcb-1 ... 10621.html

And here is a Schiele picture with an uncanny resemblance to Watson himself:

http://www.museum-reproductions.com/cgi ... ction=form


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 Post subject: Uncanny indeed.
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:27 am 
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Uncanny, indeed. However did Cassandra find that painting?

Anyway, 'Mayerling', "Manon' et al. - I simply do not get these ballets.

Coarse subject matter, sensationalistic treatment, Goleizovski-style partnering (look out for hair-line fractures in the spine), dull ensemble work for the corps de ballet - sorry to be a party-pooper, but it's everything I don't like rolled up into one sticky-fingered package.

But do not take my word for it. Someone else GOT THERE FIRST.

On American television forty years ago, there was a series known as Peyton Place.

Here is a quote from the Peyton Place Fan Site, http://members.aol.com/AlisnRod/

"Long before Laura Palmer washed up on the shores of Twin Peaks, Allison MacKenzie was walking around Peyton Place with her mind wrapped in plastic. The fresh-faced innocent heroine of this 1964 prime time soap was a mass of conflicting sexual emotions - so imagine what the other characters were like! There was Betty, Allison's school mate, who began the show unwed and pregnant and shortly there after got involved in prostitution in NYC. There was Rachel Welles, a stranger in town, who'd been sexually abused by her Uncle (Though there was great care taken to emphasize that he was only an uncle "by marriage"). And the list goes on and on...


"What made "Peyton Place" unique was not simply that it was a show immersed in sex during the still virginal days of television. No. "Peyton Place" is remarkable for its subtle, intelligent, often poignant writing and for the exceptional acting talent that brought that writing to life."

YEAH.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 4:07 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
I had a double dose of "Mayerling" with Watson's debut in the afternoon and Acosta in the evening, together with some of the national critics.

Generally speaking, I am always happier with the Macmillan ballets than the beautiful dancing of fluffy ballets such as "Coppelia and "don Q."; emotionally charged classical ballets such as "Giselle" and "Swan lake" are in a different league.

"Mayerling" has its problems: a deep sag in the middle; those four Hungarian offficers, although they do make more sense on repeated viewings; all those women (now which one is this?). Nevertheless, the Watson/Galeazzi/Lamb performance was special and the intensity of the duets and Watson's extraordinary performance conquered all: deeply disturbed from the start and descending further into madness - he recieved a rapturous reception. On a technical point, I'm not sure I have ever seen an attitude from a male dancer as beautiful as his.

Acosta is one of the leading dancers around, but his portrayal was much less interesting then Watson's, in my view. With the early wedding night scene, when the Prince comes into the bedroom with a gun and a skull, it was already believable in Watson's portrayal, whereas a bright "Mayerling" first-timer sitting next to me was perplexed when Acosta played the same scene.

Thus, Cassandra, I wouldn't rate "Mayerling" "good or bad" ballet; rather it's a ballet which can attain great heights for a good part of its duration. For those interested in dance representing modern concerns and pathological psychology, as we see in 20th/21st century literature, MacMillan's ballets will continue to fascinate, even when they are uneven.


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 Post subject: Critical comparisons
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 8:21 am 
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Location: London UK
Whilst searching the Guardian for the interview with Edward Watson that I've posted on another thread, I came across this piece comparing the critics opinions about Mayerling:

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/theatre/danc ... 15,00.html

As is stated in the article, there are in fact four casts for this run of the ballet and I'm told by a ballet goer whose views I trust that it is Johan Kobborg who gives the outstanding interpretation of Rudolf. A pity none of the critics seems to have reviewed him. I think Martin Harvey will be making his debut in the role so lets hope at least one of the critics will be in attendance for that.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 12:25 pm 
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
So Stuart, what I read from your analysis is that this ballet's success can hinge on the performance of the male lead. That in my mind could be problematic for the ballet in general but great for the dancer who conquers it, similar to a Wozzeck or Lucia di Lammermore to use operatic examples.


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 Post subject: Two Mayerling casts
PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2007 10:24 am 
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Location: London UK
After having seen two casts of the current run of Mayerling, I have to say I was very impressed by what I saw. Although the company as a whole has frequently performed lamentably in the classics, every now and then a chink of hope shines through and I feel that is very much the case in this particular ballet. With a bewildering array of listed characters quite a number of dancers get the opportunity to show what they are capable of and it seems that a number of them are capable of rather a lot.

When the ballet was first created the first three interpreters of the leading role each took a different approach to the part: putting it rather simplistically, David Wall portrayed Rudolf as bad, Wayne Eagling as sad and Stephen Jefferies as mad and generally speaking subsequent casts have followed their examples. I would have thought that the extrovert Carlos Acosta would have gone for the crazed lunatic approach pioneered by Jefferies, but instead he was nearer to the Eagling interpretation, a pathetic disintegrating soul whose fate actually inspires a degree of compassion. I have my doubts as to whether Acosta is totally in sympathy with the choreography; he seemed ill at ease at times with having to perform movements that are distinctly un-classical. He was at his best in the double work with Leanne Benjamin; with his outstanding physical strength he managed the intricate and demanding duets with total ease, throwing Benjamin around as if she were completely weightless. This pair was totally uninhibited and performed the sexually explicit pas deux at the end with complete abandon.

If Acosta was low-key, Edward Watson pulled out all the stops to produce a manic roller coaster of emotions. This was a man on the edge right from the start. No wonder his mother didn’t want to be alone with him! In each successive scene Watson’s Rudolf became more desperate and more insane, his dancing a maelstrom of frantic speed and thrashing limbs hurtling towards inevitable destruction. His liaison with Mary (Mara Galeazzi) wasn’t so much to do with lust as a perverted sense of need, together with the instinctive knowledge that he had found a woman for whom death could be the ultimate sexual thrill.

The two Marys were both vintage performances and there was little to chose between them. Leanne Benjamin with her tiny frame; has the ability to look startlingly young on stage, in this case a child-like woman with lascivious longings and an eagerness for celebrity. The other cast featured Mara Galeazzi who seems to have a natural affinity with MacMillan roles (has anyone thought to revive Las Hermanas for her?) and in her approach to Mary Vetsera she comes closest to Lynn Seymour, the roles creator, as a teenage slut as high on sex and intrigue as her princely lover is on drugs.

Galeazzi also danced as Countess Larisch and I really don’t think anyone has ever been better in the role, ambitious and self-seeking but also deeply in love with her flawed prince. Powerless to stop his inevitable decline she will do anything to stay close to him even if that means reinventing herself as his pimp. In the other cast Sarah Lamb was a jaded aristocrat scheming to retain her position in the inner royal circle, a cast off beauty demeaning herself to stay close to power.

As the enigmatic Empress Elizabeth, I would have thought Zenaida Yanovsky would have been perfect casting, but surprisingly she didn’t seem totally in sympathy with the role although I noted an improvement at a later performance. Cindy Jourdain made Elizabeth far more highly strung, bringing out more of the complexities of the Character, but MacMillan’s Elizabeth, seems to have been less well researched than the other Austrian royals as giving this unstable, frigid woman a lover simply doesn’t match the facts.

A number of production details still bother me; at Mayerling the attendants rush into the room at the sound of gunfire whereas in the Hoffberg, a building no doubt crawling with servants, they don’t. Another odd feature is at the end of the scene when the empress hits Larisch, Elizabeth points angrily to the door even though cowering on the front of the stage, Larisch cannot possibly see her. Then there is that odd fortune telling scene, why is the two of spades card so significant that Larisch initially hides it from Mary?

Mayerling is a ballet that for all its faults has ‘legs’, as it has become rather topical after all these years now that the sordid sexual shenanigans of a royal family much closer to home has become common knowledge and my initial feelings on first seeing the work, that a ballet based on an obscure incident over a century ago had little relevance to a modern audience was wrong. Royalty still has the ability to fascinate.

Finally, in a macabre incident in the last decade, Mary Vetsera’s remains were dug up (by vandals?) This gave modern pathologists the chance to examine her skull: there was no bullet wound – she had been bludgeoned to death.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2007 10:25 am 
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“Mayerling”
Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House, London
Monday 7 May 2007


“Mayerling” has seen several revivals in the last few years by the Royal Ballet and the ballet has established itself as a classic within the company’s repertoire. It is always welcome to see new dancers leaving their imprint in the ballet and this year there were two new dancers making their debut as Prince Rudolf: Martin Harvey and Edward Watson. I saw the latter’s performance and, a welcome debut it certainly was!

“Mayerling” is one of those ballets that takes several viewings in order to made total sense of the complex storyline. For those watching the ballet for the first time, the plot must look rather chaotic and it is down to the programme notes and to the outstanding performances of all its interpreters to make the ballet an enjoyable and coherent piece of theatre. On the performance I saw, the interpreters really shone in all their roles and Watson must be grateful to all his female partners for making his character evolve through the story from a childish Prince to a consumed and despaired man.

During the first act, Watson did show promise, but could not master either the technique or the characterisation. His solos were too muddled and their phrasing left a lot to be desired. A lot of work must be put in this act in order to make the dancer’s performance brilliant from beginning to end.

His partners soon started focusing his character, especially Sarah Lamb, who played Countess Marie Larisch with such wisdom and clarity that it was hard to take your eyes off her. Technically she mastered all the acrobatics in her pas de deux, but most importantly, she nuanced every step beautifully and it was clear to see the impact this woman should have made on a young and confused man. Her characterisation was logically developed throughout the ballet and it propelled Watson’s Rudolf technically as well as psychologically.

Iohna Loots as Princess Stephanie in the bedroom pas de deux that ends the first act was also excellent and her performance was well phrased and in keeping with the original creator of the role. Her sheer terror and confusion and yet, her desire to comply with the desires of a madman came across most strongly.

Cindy Jourdain as Empress Elisabeth had the cold beauty and detachment needed for the role, but more work needs to be put into her troubled relationship with her son. Their pas de deux should be the catalyst to the pas de deux that follows it, that is the above mentioned duet between Rudolf and his newly wedded wife. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand what happened in the corridor to this simple, childish young man in order to behave the way he does.

“Mayerling” is just too complex in its structure and it relies on the dramatic qualities of its cast more than any other ballet I have ever seen. These should be carefully knitted and interlaced, as it is the psychology of the characters that drive the ballet forward, rather than the choreographic transitions.

Mary Vetsera was played by Mara Galeazzi and, once again, she played her character beautifully. Her compulsive behaviour was clearly defined from the moment Countess Larisch announces her fate is bound to Rudolf’s.

Watson returned to the stage on the second act to show a much more grounded character that slowly but surely allowed himself to head for self destruction. His final act was simply breathtaking. His moral and physical decay was so clearly portrayed that it was difficult not to feel sad for this man who seemed unable to take any sort of control over his life. Watson’s elongated lines were beautifully used in helping to give this character the extreme distortion of his mind.

Most characters played their roles heartedly. I would just mention Laura Morera as Mitzi Caspar and Steve McRae as Bratfisch. Their roles, though not long, managed once again to set the pace and mood for the events to unfold.

A most promising performance and one that makes one hopeful of the way the company can still hold together and bring to life a work as difficult as MacMillan’s “Mayerling”:


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