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Mayerling: a madman yearning for destruction

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Photo: Ann Ray

Like almost all background stories of other ballet, Mayerling is also a tragic love story that ends with the death of both Rudolf and Mary. While Mayerling is not simply written by a melancholic writer, it's based on a historical murder-suicide incident in 1889 during the period of Austria-Hungary.

2022, this choreography of Sir Kenneth MacMillan adapted from the true incident has its French premiere in Palais Garnier by Ballet Opéra de Paris; led by Hugo Marchand and Dorothée Gilbert.

Photo: Ann Ray

Hugo's dance and interpretation of characters always attract me enormously; especially, I adore how he portrays madmen.

In Hugo's interpretation of Rudolf, I feel a wave of extremely strong anger and boredom toward everything in his life. It seems like while Hugo is dancing, every part of his muscle is expressing Rudolf's frustration, I sense firmly the craziness that is happening on stage, the yearning of destroying everything before the annihilation of himself.

Photo: Ann Ray

Dorothée, on the other hand, always convinces us that she's a teenage girl who is so naif with love by giving audiences her bright and airy dancing style. Seeing Dorothée on stage, audiences witness how young Baroness Mary is so curious about a mature man, who is so mysterious and fierce under that gloomy air.

The Mary of Dorothée is a reckless girl, she tries to put on a fearless act that meets the maturity of manhood.

Hugo and Dorothée illustrate to us a tragic couple whom the audience can foresee their doom as soon as they start their extremely passionate, sensual yet toxic pas de deux.

Photo: Ann Ray

Another character who catches my eye is Countess Marie Larisch by Hannah O'Neill. In Hannah's dance, I see an ambitious aunt who strategically introduces her young niece, Mary, to Rudolf not only to strengthen the authority of her family but also to approach or even to reunite with Rudolf, who is the former lover of Countess Marie at the same time.

Hannah portrays us as a Countess who seems to be so wicked; however, audiences can detect that her action is driven by a love of no return. It may seem that Marie uses her niece to connect herself deeper with Rudolf, but during the scene when the Countess gives Mary a fortune telling, Marie's love for her niece is revealed fully in Hannah's body movement.

Photo: Ann Ray

Dance is a kind of language without a voice, the dancers on stage have delivered us strong emotions of the characters in Mayerling: the struggle of Rudolph, the unconditional love of Mary, and the calculation of Marie.

(Full text and article available in 2 other languages on Nereid, elle rêve.)

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