We are thrilled to be touring with The Scandal at Mayerling, a ballet that has never before been produced in the UK outside of London and that promises to startle audiences with its emotionally charged and visceral choreography. 

A reimagining of Sir Kenneth MacMillan's celebrated ballet Mayerling, this sumptuous production will feature our entire company of 40+ dancers. 

Set in 1889 in the opulent, royal courts of Vienna, The Scandal at Mayerling tells the true story of the Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, an anti-hero as compelling as Hamlet. He enjoyed the privileges of a royal lifestyle – elaborate parties and his every whim catered for. But with it came mistresses, alcohol and drugs in excess. As his mental health rapidly declined and his place at Court became ever more tenuous, he developed a morbid fascination with death. The ‘scandal’ erupted when he and his teenage mistress Mary Vetsera were discovered dead in an apparent murder-suicide at the Mayerling imperial hunting lodge in the woods outside the city.

The original production, Mayerling, premiered at the Royal Ballet in 1978 (a Royal Gala performance on Valentine’s Day, no less) and was hailed for both its epic grandiosity and breathtaking choreography. Our version refocuses the spotlight on the lethal power dynamics between Rudolf and the women in his life - his wife, his mother and his mistresses – in a series of increasingly intense duets. 

The ballet features nine intense, dramatic duets between Prince Rudolf, his wife, his mistresses and his mother (who is also the subject of upcoming Netflix period drama series The Empress), some both physically intricate and erotically charged. 

Dancers and rehearsal staff are taking part in a series of workshops with renowned Fight and Intimacy Direction company Rc-Annie in preparation for rehearsals and performances. The workshops, which will include intimacy coaching, boundary setting and training in the safe use of Replica Imitation Firearms, will allow greater authenticity to scenes, while ensuring dancers and staff are supported throughout the tour. We are believed to be the first ballet company in the UK to do this.

The production is recommended for audiences aged 12+ and comes with a content warning that it includes themes of mental illness, sexual violence, addiction and suicide. We are working with SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) to ensure messaging is appropriate.

With the full company on stage, lavish new set and costume designs, and the Franz Liszt score performed live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, The Scandal at Mayerling is set to startle audiences across Scotland.

Scottish tour dates

The Scandal at Mayerling will tour to:

Theatre Royal Glasgow (13-16 April)

Eden Court, Inverness (21-23 April)

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen (5-7 May)

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (25-28 May)

The running time is two hours (with a 20-minute interval).

Tickets can be purchased here.

‘During our 50th anniversary year Scottish Ballet made a commitment to bring five new full-length works into the repertoire over five years. The Scandal at Mayerling is an important addition, as Lady MacMillan entrusts us to deliver a new version of one of Sir Kenneth’s most ground-breaking works. The role of Prince Rudolf is a marathon of endurance, physically and emotionally, for any principal dancer, and I am thrilled that our own Christopher Harrison will be giving the world premiere in Glasgow. I am also delighted that joining us for the tour as Principal Guest Artist is Royal Ballet Principal Dancer, Ryoichi Hirano performing the leading role in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. The Scandal at Mayerling is a story rich with political intrigue, conflicting emotions, passion and obsession played out against an archaic and crumbling empire. Sir Kenneth’s choreography is some of the most visceral and emotionally charged ever produced – it demands our attention right up to the ill-fated conclusion.’

Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director/CEO of Scottish Ballet

‘Kenneth didn’t set out to shock people but was acutely aware that in the ballet world of fairies and tutus, more realistic insights into human behaviour might prove difficult. It didn’t stop him, however, and the fact that 30 years after his death his work is still selling tickets is, I think, a testament to his work and the audience response. There is a strong Scottish connection – Kenneth was born in Dunfermline – and Scottish Ballet attests to the highest aims of ballet companies worldwide, performing the best of the classics as well as looking to the future in choreography, design and new technologies.’

Lady Deborah MacMillan, widow of Sir Kenneth MacMillan

‘As a ballet, The Scandal at Mayerling is full of design potential; a fierce storyline, regal setting, and an ensemble of really complicated, vibrant characters who drive the narrative. We wanted to take a fresh look at the piece, while remaining true to the core intentions of MacMillan’s original. The world that we’ve created is opulent but also incredibly dark and threatening. It’s an elaborate, ambitious production.’

Elin Steele, Set & Costume Designer