Magazine article The Spectator

Respeting MacMillan

Magazine article The Spectator

Respeting MacMillan

Article excerpt



(Royal Opera House)

Mayerling is, arguably, one of the most spectacular three-act ballets Kenneth MacMillan created, as well as one of the most captivating examples of 20th-century narrative choreography. MacMillan's dance interpretation tells the story (the truth of which remains uncertain) of tragic lovers Crown Prince Rudolph and Baroness Mary Vetsera. It calls not just for that perfectly calibrated combination of refined acting and excellent technical rendition on which MacMillan's narrative ballets rely, but also for an impeccable theatrical presentation. Without this, the work would easily slip from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Luckily, on the opening night, the performance was impeccable from every point of view. Even those solutions that, because of their translation from history into ballet, might look slightly odd, did not impinge on the fluidity of the action; I am thinking particularly of those omnipresent conspirators who keep popping out of every corner and curtain of the palace to taunt the already troubled young prince. The well-- deserved, thunderous ovation that followed the gloomy and somehow intentionally anti-climatic final scene -- the same as the opening one - was the obvious reaction to the haunting dramatic crescendo that builds up subtly and gradually throughout the ballet. In spite of the directorship-related problems and artistic quarrels that have surrounded the opening of this year's Royal Ballet season, the company was in splendid form, and everyone, from the superstarry leading team of principals to the last extra, looked perfectly attuned to the dramatic and stylistic requirements of such a major choreographic creation.

According to comments picked up during the two intervals, those who remembered or pretended to remember the original production did not have much chance to indulge in detrimental comparisons. The interpretation is obviously different from that of the first cast - and also from the one recorded more recently on video - but it is different in a uniquely captivating way.

As Crown Prince Rudolph, Johann Kobborg was the undisputed hero of the evening. It was interesting to see him put aside the quintessential danseur noble image he is generally associated with (and admired for) and become a young, tormented neurotic man, lost in a world of dark and perverse fantasies in order to escape from the equally nightmarish court life. …

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