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Liszt/Lanchbery: Mayerling / Royal Ballet 2009 [blu-ray]

Liszt / Watson / Galeazzi / Loots / Tuckett
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 7061  
Composer:  Franz Liszt
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
Blu-ray Video:  $39.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players, and not compatible with standard DVD players

Kenneth MacMillan
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

Crown Prince Rudolf – Edward Watson
Baroness Mary Vetsera – Mara Galeazzi
Princess Stephanie – Iohna Loots
Emperor Franz Josef – William Tuckett
Empress Elisabeth – Cindy Jourdain
Countess Marie Larisch – Sarah Lamb
Baroness Helene Vetsera – Elizabeth McGorian

Royal Opera House Orchestra
Barry Wordsworth, conductor

Kenneth MacMillan, choreographer

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, October 2009.
Read more /> Bonus:
- Illustrated synopsis
- Cast Gallery
- Principles in rehearsal with Edward Watson and Mara Galeazzi
- Short feature on costumes

Picture format: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: PCM 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles (bonus features only): French, German, Spanish
Running time: 159 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (BD 50)

R E V I E W:


LISZT Mayerling (arr. & orch. Lanchberry) & Barry Wordsworth, cond; Edward Watson ( Crown Prince Rudolf ); Mara Galeazzi ( Baroness Mary Vetsara ); Sarah Lamb ( Countess Marie Larisch ); Royal Op House O OPUS ARTE 7061 (Blu-ray: 159:00) Live: London 10/12,16/2009

& Feature: Principals in Rehearsal . Cast gallery and costumes

Franz Liszt, of course, did not compose Mayerling . The score is arranged and orchestrated by John Lanchberry from Liszt’s music. Many listeners (myself included) will usually prefer a single original score in the tradition of the Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Delibes ballets because the music is more stylistically coherent and has greater potential for symphonic development. However, there are just not that many complete ballets worth hearing, so there is certainly a place for these pastiche pieces, especially considering the influence of George Balanchine, who is famously on record as being not in favor of the traditional single-night ballet. As with Balanchine, choreographer Kenneth McMillan gets the main billing here. Liszt and Lanchberry are placed under the title in small print. Lanchberry, based on the evidence of ballets like La Fille mal gardée and The Tales of Beatrix Potter , may have no peer as an arranger and orchestrator of ballet music. The question is whether his magic works as well with extremely dark and tragic subject matter as opposed to his popular light and frothy ballets. With Mayerling , McMillan and Lanchberry attempt to capture the best of both worlds by creating a traditional full-length dramatic ballet with a score arranged from multiple works by the same composer.

Mayerling is based on the historical events culminating in the much romanticized and mysterious murder-suicide of Austria’s Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress, Mary Vertsara. This lurid tale of sex, drugs, violence, womanizing, and political intrigue must have shocked audiences used to Giselle and Swan Lake when it premiered in 1978. Nevertheless, in the hands of several very accomplished casts, it has deservedly become a big hit for the Royal Ballet.

Edward Watson totally throws himself into the demanding and unsympathetic role of the sadistic Austrian Crown Prince obsessing over guns and skulls. He is not a particularly fluid or graceful dancer and his leaps are nothing special, but that is OK because the Mayerling scenario does not lend itself to elegant dancing. Watson’s greatest strengths are his acting and total physical immersion into the role. He starts tentatively in act I, but the intensity of his performance steadily rises as Rudolf’s life spirals downward toward the final scene at Mayerling. Mara Galeazzi is similarly convincing but less intense as she steadily evolves from a starry-eyed young girl to a willing participant in Rudolf’s death pact. The core of the ballet lies in the several pas de deux between Rudolf and his women (Mary Vetsara, Countess Larisch, Princess Stephanie, among others). The final scene as danced by Watson and Galeazzi is probably unprecedented in its brutal physicality. Sarah Lamb also deserves special mention for her riveting portrayal of the conniving Countess Larisch.

Liszt’s music is ideal for the story in terms of time, setting, subject matter, and the dark and brooding romantic tone that is immediately established with the somber threatening chords from Héroïde funèbre in the Prologue and Epilogue set in the cemetery where some shadowy people are secretively disposing of Mary Vetsara’s body. Lanchberry’s amazing arrangements and orchestration of numerous works effectively hold the plot together without sounding like a pastiche. The one major miscalculation is the five-and-a-half-minute Mephisto Waltz sequence in the already too-long act II tavern scene. This music is so familiar in other contexts that it tends to take you out of the ballet and does nothing to further the plot. Other scenes (the royal shoot and the Emperor’s birthday party) appear to be unnecessary in a ballet whose main weaknesses are its length and lengthy list of similar (mostly female) characters. The program notes include an essay on the historical events and a very useful synopsis that successfully guides the viewer through the convoluted plot.

The orchestra plays a little sluggishly for this inherently dramatic music. Part of the problem with the Mephisto Waltz may be that it simply lacks bite. The extras include a short feature showing Watson and Galeazzi rehearsing their final pas de deux at Mayerling, plus a review of the elaborate costumes. Subtitles are in French, German, and Spanish. Mayerling is also available in a widely praised 1994 standard DVD featuring Irek Mukhamedov, Viviana Durante, and Darcey Bussell, but the audio and visual superiority of Blu-ray technology makes this the preferred version. Don’t miss it.

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

Mayerling by Franz Liszt
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Notes: This work was arranged by John Lanchbery from works by Franz Liszt. 

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