Mayerling (ballet)

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ChoreographerKenneth MacMillan
Original ballet companyRoyal Ballet
GenreNeoclassical ballet
Typeclassical ballet

Mayerling is a ballet created in 1978 by Kenneth MacMillan for the Royal Ballet, London.


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

Prologue: The cemetery at Heiligenkreuz before dawn

Act I[edit]

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 making love to her.

Act II[edit]

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.

Act III[edit]

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[edit]

Mayerling was first produced for the Royal Ballet in 1978, by the British choreographer Sir Kenneth Macmillan, with a scenario written by Gillian Freeman,[1] 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.[2][2][3]

Critical reception[edit]

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."[4]

Original Cast[edit]

Role Character Description Dancer
Crown Prince Rudolf Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary David Wall
Baroness Mary Vetsera Mistress of Crown Prince Rudolph Lynn Seymour
Princess Stephanie Wife of Crown Prince Rudolph Wendy Ellis
Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary Father of Crown Prince Rudolph Michael Somes
Empress Elisabeth Mother of Crown Prince Rudolph Georgina Parkinson[5][6]
Countess Marie Larisch Lady in waiting to Empress Elizabeth and former mistress of Crown Prince Rudolph Merle Park
Archduchess Sophie Mother of Emperor Franz Josef Julie Wood
Bratfisch Private cab driver to Crown Prince Rudolph, also a popular entertainer Graham Fletcher
Mizzi Kaspar A high-class prostitute and Crown Prince Rudolph's regular mistress Laura Connor
George "Bay" Middleton Empress Elisabeth's lover David Drew
Katharina Schratt Friend of Emperor Franz Josef Bernadette Greevy
Alfred Grünfeld A pianist Anthony Twiner
Baroness Helene Vetsera Mother of Baroness Mary's Vetsera Gerd Larsen
Count Eduard Taaffe Prime Minister of Austria-Hungary Leslie Edwards
Count Hoyos Friend of Crown Prince Rudolph Ross MacGibbon
Princess Louise Sister to Princess Stephanie Genesia Rosato
Prince Philipp of Coburg Husband to Princess Louise, also friend of Crown Prince Rudolph Derek Rencher
Princess Gisela Older sister of Crown Prince Rudolph Sally Inkin
Princess Valerie Younger sister of Crown Prince Rudolph Marguerite Porter
Princess Valerie (Child) Representation of Princess Valerie as a child Julie Rose
Mary Vetsera (Child) Representation of Mary Vetsera as a child Elizabeth Griffiths
Loschek Valet to Crown Prince Rudolph Anthony Conway
Count Larisch Husband to Countess Marie Larisch Robert Jude
Hungarian Officers Friends of Crown Prince Rudolf Michael Coleman
Derek Deane
Stephen Beagley
Michael Batchelor
Ladies in Waiting
Roles that are not significant within the plot and are not named Artists of the Royal Ballet

New York City premiere, the Royal Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House, April 1983[edit]

Moscow premiere, Stanislavsky Ballet, March 2013[edit]


Royal Ballet, April 2007[edit]

* substitute for Alexandra Ansanelli


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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gillian Freeman, 'The making of Mayerling', in The Times, Wednesday 8 February 1978, p. 9, column B.
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ "Ballet: Performance details". Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  4. ^ Different Drummer: The Life of Kenneth MacMillan by Jann Parry (2009), p.490.
  5. ^ "Daily Telegraph obituary of Georgina Parkinson, 20 December 2009". The Daily Telegraph. UK. 20 December 2009. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  6. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna (18 December 2009). "NY Times obituary of Georgina Parkinson, 18 December 2009". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  7. ^

External links[edit]