A bit delayed, but I'd like to post my impressions of the Saturday Mayerling!
A few months ago I was entranced by the televised McRae/Lamb performance and jumped at the chance to see Mayerling in person. I chose Saturday night mainly for my love of Sarah—the rest of the cast was, I think, almost the same as the televised version, with the exception of Matthew Ball. I read great reviews of his debut last year and was excited to see his take on the role. He was absolutely fantastic—his agony and hurt were so palpable. He was so sympathetic by the end, in fact, I found it hard to square his wounded persona with Rudolf's behavior in the first act. His mother's rejection helps to explain his horrific treatment of Stephanie, but ruining his wedding by flirting with the bride's sister didn't seem to fit with Matthew's overall interpretation. But this is really nitpicking—Matthew's dancing and acting were incredible, as were Sarah's. Only when the curtain fell did I realize I had been barely breathing from the start of the final pas de deux to the very end. Marcelino Sambé—whose speed elicited gasps and applause—and James Hay were also standouts.
I went with my boyfriend, and my parents, who live nearby, tagged along—I was shocked by how much they all enjoyed it! I was fully expecting my dad to sleep through the performance but every intermission he was raving about the show and asking me tons of questions about the plot. (I agree with the posts mentioning the inadequacy of the program notes. My dad thought that the Hungarian officers were Rudolf's "best men," employed to distract him and thus keep him from interfering in court affairs. I answered my family's questions as best I could, trying not to give too much away, but I was stumped when they asked why Mitzi Caspar blew Rudolf's cover to the prime minister.)
I am so, so glad the Royal brought Mayerling over—it definitely has its faults, but I think reviewers can sometimes get too caught up in the details and miss an overall spectacular ballet. The melodrama, the acrobatics, the crazy-but-true story...my parents immediately bought Twilight of Empire afterwards, which certainly speaks to their engagement with the work. One of my favorite nights at the ballet.