Kenneth MacMillan turned to the double suicide of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his teenage mistress for this 1978 work. The music of Franz Liszt, arranged by John Lanchbery, provides a sweeping soundscape to match the high emotion of the drama, while the designs of Nicholas Georgiadis bring to life the privileged and oppressive society of the Austro-Hungarian court.

MacMillan’s choreography balances the large-scale – the pomp of a royal wedding and the splendour of a ballroom – with intimate scenes and a willingness to push the boundaries of classical ballet. The role of Rudolf, the violent and troubled Crown Prince of Vienna, is one of the most demanding ever created for a male dancer. His psychological and emotional decline is charted in a series of shockingly charged pas de deux with the women in his life: his mother, his unhappy bride and his young mistress, the neurotic Mary Vetsera.

 

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