Fall Arts Guide

Mayerling Makes Its American Debut at the Houston Ballet

This sprawling epic of dynastic intrigue has everything—doom, despair, incest, mistresses and murder.

By Morgan Kinney August 21, 2017 Published in the September 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Ballet de Santiago artists Luis Ortigoza and Dolores Salazar in a 2016 production of Mayerling.

Image: Patricio Melo

Artistic Director Stanton Welch says each Houston Ballet season needs some “high drama”—a full-length production to fill out the usual Swan Lake and Nutcracker programming. With the American debut of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling, originally performed by London’s Royal Ballet in 1978, he’s landed on a swirling vortex of doom and despair, sprinkled with incest and mistresses and a hint of murder. Yay!

Welch describes the ballet as great storytelling, like a Jane Austen novel, but also a story in the vein of Game of Thrones, with “all that intrigue and all that torment that comes with royalty.”

But unlike what occurs in Westeros, the events in the ballet actually happened. The plot follows the 1889 Mayerling Incident, when the Crown Prince of Austria died in an apparent murder-suicide that debatably precipitated the events leading up to World War I.

“It seems like a dark, unwatchable story, but it’s not,” Welch says. “It’s sort of a fascinating collapse of society.”

Mayerling, Houston Ballet, Sept. 22-24, Hobby Center

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