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Theatre / Elisabeth

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Everyone has danced with Death
but no one like Elisabeth!

Elisabeth is a German-language musical about Elisabeth (also known as Sisi), the wife of Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph I, focusing mainly on an imagined lifelong flirtation with Death himself (rendered as a handsome young man called "Der Tod"- German for "death") and Elisabeth's constant need for independence, often at the cost of her unconditionally loving husband and her hypersensitive son Crown Prince Rudolf. It is narrated from beyond the grave by Luigi Lucheni, the Italian anarchist who assassinated her in 1898. He does his best to turn the audience against her, but ultimately it is left to the viewer to decide about Elisabeth's character.

It premiered in Vienna in 1992 and was responsible for launching the careers of Pia Douwes (Elisabeth) and Uwe Kröger (Death), who are today two of the most important performers in European musical theater. Elisabeth is also a popular offering by Japan's all-female Takarazuka Revue; actress Maki Ichiro, who played Death while a Takarasienne, went on to play Elisabeth herself in a mixed-gender production after leaving the Revue, and Jun Sena has gone from Lucheni to Elisabeth to Death (all Takarazuka) to Elisabeth again in a mixed-gender production. Also, Hikaru Asami played Rudolf in the 1998 (Takarazuka) production and then went on to play Elisabeth in the 2008 mixed-gender production, and having alternated the role with Jun Sena. Various productions often reinterpret the show, including new songs and adding or removing whole plotlines, depending on how familiar an audience is with the historical background.


The show can be watched on YouTube with English subtitles: Mark Seibert and Annemieke van Dam's version. Here's an English fan translation of the full show if you feel inclined to sing along.

Now has a developing Character Sheet.

Elisabeth contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Archduchess Sophie takes charge of her oldest grand-daughter from her mother Elisabeth, claiming that it was because a child couldn't raise a child. In real life, Sisi gave birth at the age of 17, ten months after her wedding. Her other children (Gisela and Rudolf) were born when she was 19 and 21, and was also whisked away by Sophie senior for the same reason. The musical featured what amounted to a custody battle, which Sisi won at the end of act 1.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Some productions add scenes and subplots.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In this case, it's songs, rather than characters. Between the 2006 cast recording and other adaptations, there are a lot of name changes, given that this album lists many songs by the location where they take place. This list does not include titles that have double-credited the location and the song. Brackets have been added to indicate titles that are somewhat similar between albums.
    • "Halle in Schloss Possenhofen" note  - "Wie du" note 
    • "Kein Kommen Ohne Geh'n" note  - "Rondo - schwarzer Prinz" note 
    • "Am Ufer des Starnberger Sees" note  - "So wie man plankt und denkt" note  (The 2006 album cut this song in half and squeezed "Jedem gibt er das seine" in between. The second part is called "Bad Ischl".)
    • "Hofburg Wien, Audienzsaal" note  - "Jedem gibt er das seine" note 
    • "Zwischen Himmel und Erde" note  - "Nicht ist schwer" note 
    • "Augustinerkirche in Wien" note  - "Alle Fragen sind gestellt" note 
    • "Ballsaal im Schloss Schönbrunn" note  - "Sie passt nicht" note 
    • "Die Gaffer" note  - "Liebe mit Gaffern" note 
    • "Elisabeths Gemächer in Laxenburg" note  - "Eine Kaiserin muss glänzen" note 
    • "Ein Wiener Kaffeehaus" note  - "Die fröhliche Apokalypse" note 
    • "Vorzimmer der Erzherzogin Sophie" note  - "Kind oder nicht" note 
    • "Elisabeths Schlafzimmer" note  - "Elisabeth, mach auf (mein Engel)" note 
    • "Marktplatz in Wien" note - "Milch" note 
    • "Elisabeths Ankleidezimmer" note  - "Eine Kaiserin muss glänzen (Reprise)" note 
    • "Ich will dir nur sagen" note  - "Ich gehör nur mir (Reprise)" note 
    • "Vor der Kathedrale in Buda" note  - "Éljen" note 
    • "(Eine) Nervenklinik (in der Nähe von Wien)" note 
    • "Zwischenmusik I" note  - "Salon (der Erzherzogin Sophie) in der Hofburg" note 
    • "Zwischenmusik II" note  - "Das Wolf'sche Etablissement (in Wien)" note 
    • "Elisabeths Gymnastikzimmer in Schönbrunn" note - "Die Maladie" and "Die letzte Chance" note 
    • "Streit Mütter und Sohn" note  - "Mama, ich bin ausser mir" note 
    • "Streit Vater und Sohn" note - "Kaiserliches Arbeitszimmer" note  - "Rudolf, ich bin ausser mir" note 
    • "Loggia einer Villa auf Korfu" note - "Wie du (Reprise)" note 
    • "Totentanz" note  - "Mayerling(-Walzer)" note 
    • "Kapuzinergruft" note  - "Totenklage" note 
    • "Kitsch (Reprise)" - "Mein neues Sortiment" note 
    • "Eine Terasse bei Cap Martin" note - "Boote in der Nacht" note 
    • "Am Deck der sinkenden Welt" note - "Alle Fragen sind gestellt (Reprise)" note 
    • "Epilog/Uferpromenade in Genf" note - "Das Attentat" and "Der Schleier fällt" note 
  • Adapted Out:
    • Elisabeth's second daughter Gisela is barely mentioned in act I and is completely forgotten in act II, while her youngest child Marie Valerie isn't included in the story at all.
    • Franz Joseph's father Franz Karl, who actually outlived his wife Sophie by six years, is not seen or mentioned in the entire show.
    • Similarly, Katharina Schratt, Franz Joseph's long time mistress and confidante (their relationship was actually endorsed and encouraged by Elisabeth) is also not present or mentioned at any point in the show.
    • Rudolf's wife Princess Stephanie of Belgium and daughter Erzsi are also omitted.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head:
    • Shirota Yu's Death pats a kneeling Rudolf (Furukawa Yuta) on the head. Although, given the fact that Rudolf's eyes go into Mind-Control Eyes mode whenever Death's hand gets near his face, the gesture might not be all that affectionate. note  He also strokes Rudolf's hair, then cheek, and then brings that same hand to his mouth as if tasting the Prince's soul right after Yami ga hirogaru (Die Schatten) and the Mayerling Waltz.
    • Tamaki Ryou (Takarazuka, 2018) strokes Rudolf's hair possessively in "Mama, wo bist du?" (Ranze Keito as young Rudolf) and after the Kiss of Death (Akatsuki Chisei as adult Rudolf). He also stroked the back of Sisi's (Manaki Reika)'s head in "Der letzte Tanz".
  • Age Cut: The Takarazuka Revue version of Rastlose Jahre has young/preteen Rudolf singing about longing for his mother, exiting, and re-entering at the end of the song as an adult, holding an incendiary newspaper.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Sophie is a jerk who makes her daughter-in-law and grandson miserable, but the productions that include "Bellaria" explain her motives and give her a brief humanising moment immediately before she dies.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • Killing two of your children: It pretty much doesn't get any badder than this.
    • Averted in the Takarazuka version, at least. Elisabeth actively resists Death's attempts to seduce her, and doesn't start to fall for him until after Rudolf's death.
  • Amicable Exes: While not exes, given that Royalty were not allowed to divorce, Elisabeth and Franz Joseph do separate, and though both are sad, they end on warm terms. As in real life, the Empress and Emperor, while seldom seeing each other in person after Prince Rudolf’s death, remained in correspondence with each other the rest of their lives, and in a way, their separation only drew them closer together as the dearest of friends.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The musical is really accurate (see Gorgeous Period Dress), but the design of Madame Wolf's "salon" and the costumes in this scene in most versions is very modern. Justified, though. Or would you actually recognize a realistically portrayed nineteenth-century brothel? You usually don't learn this in history class...
    • The original Vienna production features some very bizarre and abstract anachronistic elements that were scaled back with subsequent revivals.
    • Mark Seibert's Death costume is markedly modern compared to everyone else, with the most glaring detail being that it has zippers up his sleeve.
    • The Toho version averts No Swastikas during "Hass" to inform the audience what was to become of the anti-Semitism displayed in this song, with Rudolf pulling down the flag. In real life, however, the Nazis didn't adopt the symbol shown until 1920, more than 30 years after Rudolf's death.
    • Death's costume and hairstyle in every version is obviously out-of-place in the setting. Justified in this case, because he's Death.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Milch" and "Hass" ("Milk" and "Hate").
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The real Lucheni was horrorstruck when he learned that Elisabeth had been pro-democracy and in favor of a free Hungary, as well as enormously charitable and kind, rather than simply another selfish royal who believed she could let them eat cake. It's actually theorized that this is what lead him to hang himself in his cell. Lucheni-the-narrator, on the other hand, remains spitefully opposed to her and her whole social caste through and through, though certain actors play this as his desperately trying to convince himself in the afterlife that he didn't murder a decent person.
    • (Takarazuka and Toho productions) In real life, Rudolf never attended/organized any public action against Franz Joseph (that we know of). His revolutionary activities only extended to writing firebrand anonymous articles, published with the help of Moritz Szeps (one of the conspirators in the show). The question of disinheriting Rudolf never came up either, though some people have stated that father and son had a major quarrel before Mayerling.
  • Aside Glance:
    • Death does this during the Takarazuka versions. The more obvious instances can be spotted at the end of "Mama, wo bist du?" and the Mayerling Waltz during Rudolf's dance with the angels.
    • Inoue Yoshio's Death looks at the camera and gives a Slasher Smile as Rudolf hugs him at the end of "Die Schatten werden länger".
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Both Elisabeth and Rudolf (though in a dream/fantasy) get this in the Takarazuka and Toho versions.
  • Ax-Crazy: Some Rudolfs seems deranged during the Mayerling Waltz.
  • Back from the Dead: A possible interpretation of what happens when Elisabeth has a terrible fall during childhood, and is carried back on stage by Death. However, since he never kisses her, it could also be interpreted as him turning up to take her life and then changing his mind.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Subverted, though only mildly. Elisabeth is at least stated to be aging and developing gray hairs as the show goes along, but not every production gives the actress age makeup and streaked wigs over the course of the time skips (though the Hungarian productions age her fairly heavily).
  • Betty and Veronica: Franz Joseph is the Betty, the option she is expected to go with by society and one that offers her safety and unconditional love; Death, the Veronica, who is mysterious and sexy but also dark, visiting her in dreams and controlling her. Elisabeth tries to find a Third-Option Love Interest, so to speak, in her own independence. None of these end well for anyone involved except possibly Death.
  • Big Entrance: Death makes one in the opening number in some productions. Toho has him descending from the ceiling with huge wings. Takarazuka Revue has him brandishing a sword, dressed in armor, with a wing as part of his costume. The 2019 concert in Vienna has him entering the frame with two of his angels on either side, making it look like he's dressed in white with huge black wings. All productions has Lucheni being a Hammy Herald, though.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Elisabeth when her first daughter Sophie dies of illness.
    • The mother who tries to save her son from execution in "Jedem gibt er das Seine" does this when her plea for mercy is refused.
    • Depending on actor, Franz Joseph may also do this when Death throws the file at Lucheni in "Am Deck der sinkenden Welt".
  • Big "WHAT?!": The crowd does this in "Milch" when Lucheni reveals that the milk shortage is caused by Elisabeth's habit of bathing in milk.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Lucheni often uses Italian expressions in his monologue, which aren't really necessary to understand the plot, but give insight into his opinion/thoughts. One of his first lines to the Judge translates to "Go fuck yourself."
  • Bittersweet Ending: Elisabeth's murder ends up looking like a release into the arms of her one true love, Death. Depending on version, this can be a Downer Ending when he then kills her with a kiss, or a Died Happily Ever After as they ascend to the netherworld.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Death, as befits an otherworldly figure whose job is destruction, doesn't seem to have the same morality scale as humans. Some productions/actors even have him being surprised that Elisabeth is unhappy when he takes her child, Sophie.
  • Bowdlerize: The Takarazuka version removes any mention of the death of Elisabeth's young daughter, anti-Semitic violence in Vienna, and other darker aspects of the show.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Toho Rudolf. He tries to escape several times during Mayerling, and his choreography as he begs Death for the gun looks rather deranged.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Lucheni does this all the time in his narrations. Tsukishiro Kanato (2018 Takarazuka)'s Lucheni even asks the cameraperson at one point note  to come closer and make sure he looks handsome (they obliged).
    • Furukawa Yuta's Death, after kissing Sisi, looks at the audience and beckons them with his hand. Blackout. Everybody dances with Death, after all.
  • Break the Cutie: Sisi, Rudolf and, to an extent, even Franz Joseph.
  • Broken Bird: Elisabeth, though this has been subverted in some productions which present her as partially responsible for her misery due to her own neurosis and a tendency to make things even worse than they already were because of her erratic and self-destructive behavior.
  • Broken Pedestal: As a young girl, Elisabeth wistfully, though fairly happily, accepts her father Max's habit of shrugging off her questions and finding feeble excuses for leaving her home on his travels, because she admires his free spirit. As a middle-aged woman, she holds a seance to communicate with his ghost and discovers that even in the afterlife, he doesn't have any answers for her and doesn't care about her needs enough to stay around and comfort her. The reality of what he was like- and how much trying to be like him damaged her own relationships- finally dawns on her.
  • Caged Bird Metaphor: Lucheni uses this to describe Elisabeth in "Die Gaffer".
  • Call-and-Response Song: The stanzas of "Milch".
    Lucheni: Do you want to know who takes the milk from you?
    Crowd: Tell us who!
    Lucheni: All the milk is only meant for her!
    Crowd: For whom?
    Lucheni: For your Empress, she needs it for...
    Crowd: For what?
    Lucheni: Her bath!
    Crowd: What?!
    Lucheni: Yes!
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Franz Joseph calls Sophie out in "Streit Mutter und Sohn", on her treatment of her son's marriage. Later, Rudolf calls Franz Joseph out in "Streit Vater und Sohn", on his reactionary policies.
  • Cape Swish: Death loves this in some Japanese productions, both Takarazuka and mixed-gender. At one point he has his Todesengel put the cape on him just so he can swish it.
  • Circling Monologue: "Wenn ich tanzen will" often has Death and Elisabeth circling each other after Elisabeth breaks free from his hold.
  • Closed Door Rapport: Franz Joseph sings about how much he misses Sisi's company and wants to be comforted by her thanks to his stressful duties as the Emperor. She has none of it, confronts him on his (and his mother Sophie)'s treatment of Rudolf, and demands final say on how her children are raised.
  • Cool Sword: Death gets one in the Japanese versions.
  • Counterpoint Duet:
    • "Boote in der Nacht" ("Ships in the Night") turns into one in the end.
    • The 2012 Viennese revival instates a version of the song "Every Path is a Maze", but makes it a duet between Death and Elisabeth rather than a solo for Death. It, too, turns into this toward the end.
    • "Wenn ich dein Spiegel wär" starts as a solo, then segues into a counterpoint duet to show that Sisi and Rudolf are Not So Different. The main melody of Spiegel complements Sisi's leitmotif and "I Want" Song, "Ich gehör nur mir" perfectly.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Takarazuka production has a Chekhov's Knife. Sisi tries to stab herself with it at the beginning of "Ich gehör nur mir", doesn't go through with it, and drops it when she faints. Death picks it up and brandishes it at her after she rejects him in "Elisabeth, mach auf". Finally, he gives the knife to Lucheni as the murder weapon, instead of the historically accurate file.
  • Creepy Monotone: A musical version; Rudolf lapses into this with his harmony to Death's melody in "Die Schatten werden länger".
  • Dances and Balls: Two to three of the show's songs have the word 'dance' in the title ("Der letzte Tanz" ("The Final Dance"), "Wenn ich tanzen will" ("When I Want to Dance"), and "Totentanz" (roughly, "The Dance of the Dead") depending on how you classify it) and one of the scenes takes place in a mirrored ballroom.
  • Dance of Despair: The Mayerling Waltz is a frantic dance sequence with Rudolf either chasing the Angels for a gun, or running from them. It ends with him shooting himself, usually with Death's helping hand.
  • Darker and Edgier: If you expected a musical version of the Sissi trilogy, you are wrong. So wrong.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • There are plenty of reprises of already fairly dark songs throughout Act II, but two stand out for being dark echoes of brighter songs: the reprise of "Wie Du" ("Like You"), and especially "Boote in der Nacht", a poignant, resigned ballad in which the aged Elisabeth and Franz Joseph conclude that they were never meant to be together, set to the exact same melody as the love duet they sang as naive teenagers.
    • Also, the waltz that Elisabeth and Franz Joseph happily dance to at their wedding gets a reprise titled "The Mayerling Waltz," which is the scene where Rudolf kills himself. The wedding music becomes the suicide music, with no alterations.
    • While not an entirely happy song when one first hears it, Alle Fragen Sind Gestellt gets one during The Eleven O'Clock Number Am Deck der Sinkenden Welt amidst Lucheni telling us about the fates of Elisabeth's relatives.
    • In "Prolog", Death sings about his love for Elisabeth. Several scenes later, the same tune is used for "Der letzte Tanz", where he tells Elisabeth he'll win in the end.
    • "Mama, wo bist du?" is a depressing song. Its reprise, "Rudolf, wo bist du?", is even more depressing.
  • Death and the Maiden: Death and Sisi are in the same pose as the trope picture at the end (both are fully clothed in white), after he's kissed her.
  • Death of a Child: The birth and death of Elisabeth's first child Sophie are mentioned/shown during "Die ersten vier Jahre".
  • Death Glare: Guess who? In the 2007 Takarazuka version in particular, Death has some truly terrifying glares.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Averted for Sisi, whose final scene plays out as a lover's reunion. Played straight for Rudolf, who goes through a frenetic dance with the Todesengels, then being bodily spun round by der Tod violently, then the gun goes off. The Takarazuka version, as mentioned below, even drags out the dance further than the German original.
  • Deconstruction: The whole thing is technically a Deconstruction Fic of the mythos of Sisi as propagated by the film (and the tourism industry of Austria), and in extension the clichés of the glorious life at court in general.
  • Despair Event Horizon: For Rudolf, it's his plea for help being turned down by Sisi. This leads to Sisi's own DEH, in which she begs Death to take her in the Kapuzinergruft.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • "Die Schatten werden länger" is full of this. Death trying repeatedly to kiss Rudolf, dragging him around the stage, getting very close to him... It looks less like Death is trying to seduce Rudolf into suicide, and more like Death's just trying to seduce him.
    • "Der letzte Tanz" has Death throw Elisabeth to the ground, then kneel down in front of her. Some actors get very close to her at this point. So close, in fact, that it looks like Death's kneeling between her legs... Doubles as Nightmare Fuel, since this is definitely without Elisabeth's consent.note 
  • Doom Magnet: Elisabeth brings death (literally) with her wherever she goes.
  • Downer Ending: Decidedly so in the Hungarian version, where after Elisabeth kisses Death in the underworld, he suddenly turns silent and cold. He leads her into a tower, then emerges alone from a balcony, brandishing cloth from her dress as a trophy.
  • Dramatic Irony: Played for comedic effect during "Die Maladie". In productions where it's very obvious Doctor Seeburger is actually Death, the audience knowing that Death is actually the one saying "If I'm not mistaken... and I never am... this is that certain malady." makes the line all the funnier. It sounds like he's deliberately, gleefully Trolling her.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: At the end of "Maladie/Die letzte Chance", Elisabeth takes off the necklace Franz Joseph gave her and throws it at Death.
  • Dragged by the Collar: Sometimes during "Die Schatten", Death can impatiently haul Rudolf back by the collar. A particularly violent example can be seen here at the 1:09 mark. He also usually does it in order to get Rudolf to bend back so he can be kissed in Mayerling as well.
  • Driven to Suicide: Rudolf.
  • Driven to Madness: Some productions choose to do this with Mayerling - Furukawa Yuta's Rudolf in the Toho production in particular seems a little bit... deranged... note 
  • Ending by Ascending: The Takarazuka versions end with Death and Elisabeth standing on a moving platform as it raises them above the stage.
  • Enemies with Death: The titular character has a love-hate relationship with Death. She doesn't fear him and continually rebuffs his advances (romantic or otherwise) throughout the show, until her Despair Event Horizon (at which he refuses to take her because he realized in that moment she wanted to use him as an escape). In the German version, Lucheni implies that Death goes out of his way to mess Sisi's life up out of spite.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Many people went to the premiere expecting a musical similar to the romantic, heart-warming, and extremely inaccurate Sissi trilogy. To a lesser extent people unfamiliar with the musical still have that expectation when they watch it for the first time. The musical disabuses them of that notion as soon as the curtain rises; the prologue has Elisabeth's murderer posthumously defending himself, followed immediately by the ghosts of her relatives rising to sing about Elisabeth and Death himself declaring his love for her.
  • Ethereal White Dress: Death wears white at some point of every production. In some versions he only wears white in the prologue and final scene, and in others he spends almost half the show in white.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Death Angels/Black Angels (particularly in Takarazuka Revue) may look like they're having way too much fun tormenting a young girl on her wedding day (Der letzte Tanz/Saigo no Dansu) or driving a young man to suicide (the Mayerling Waltz), but it doesn't stop them from looking absolutely disgusted and judgmental at Elisabeth weeping in the Imperial Crypt. It's because her refusal to help Rudolf was the last straw that led him to kill himself.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Death, at Elisabeth's wedding just after the "I do".
    • In some versions, Death gets another Evil Laugh during "Der letzte Tanz".
    • Park Hyung-sik's Death laughs during "Die Schatten werden länger".
  • Evil Matriarch: Elisabeth's mother-in-law, Sophie, is depicted (somewhat erroneously) as a cruel and domineering woman driven at all costs to break the spirit of the young empress and maintain an iron grip on Franz Joseph. In history, Sophie was more along the lines of a Knight Templar Parent.
  • Eyelid Pull Taunt: Takarazuka version - young Sisi and Rudolf both do this to playfully mock the adults coming after them.
  • Expy: Lucheni is heavily patterned after Che, the sarcastic All-Knowing Singing Narrator from Evita.
  • Final Love Duet: "Der Schleier fällt", for Death and Elisabeth. Some productions have it more bitter than sweet, with Death kissing her and having his angels carry her away, and some (like Takarazuka) play it straight, with Sisi clinging to Death as he shows her the underworld, which she will be queen of.
  • Fear Song: "Mama, wo bist du?" opens with a scared young Rudolf calling for his mother, because his room is dark and he's cold.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: Heard after Mayerling.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Par for the course for a show based on historical events. Elisabeth is taken by Death after being murdered by Lucheni, who later hangs himself in prison, Rudolf commits suicide with his mistress, and the Habsburg Empire falls, along with most of the other European royal dynasties as the world gets sucked into World War I.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Lucheni has a habit of cursing in Italian.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Elisabeth and Franz Joseph's marriage appears to be this, since it follows directly after the scene in which they meet, though from Lucheni giving dates in his narration we know that it is actually 10 months later.
  • The Gentleman or the Scoundrel: Sisi struggles with a choice: life with the kind, noble Emperor Franz Joseph who loves her unconditionally but is too busy with state affairs and being a Mama's Boy to defend her, or suicide/death with the roguish, darkly attractive but cruel Death? She runs into Death's arms and embraces him at the end.
  • Get Out!: Takarazuka Sisi says this to both Death and Franz Joseph at several points in the show.
  • Ghost Song:
    • The prologue could count, though the setting leaves it ambiguous as to whether they're ghosts or the dead raised bodily for the purposes of reenacting the story. The reprise of "Wie Du" in which Elisabeth begs her father's spirit for guidance definitely counts, though.
    • The Hungarian and original Dutch versions also had Sophie's ghost sing a verse during Elisabeth's lament after Rudolf's suicide.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Sisi got her way alright, traveling the world and doing whatever she damn well wanted, unburdened by the rigmaroles of court and a loving (the feeling quickly became non-mutual for her) but ineffectual husband. It, however, came at the cost of/resulted in:
    • The death of two of her children, Sophie by sickness due to a trip Sisi insisted she go on, Rudolf by suicide due to Sisi choosing non-interference in his issues because she had cut her bonds with the Emperor long ago.
    • Franz Joseph cheating on her and infecting her with a STD. He regretted it, but the damage was done.
    • Her turning into a bitter and cold Broken Bird, only able to find solace in the arms of Death. Takarazuka Revue's treatment has Death calling for Sisi as Lucheni stabs her, turning it into a suicide rather than a murder.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Lots of fun to be had with this, including several reproductions of dresses worn by the real Elisabeth.
  • Grief Song: "Rudolf, wo bist du?", sung by Elisabeth after Rudolf's suicide.
  • Groin Attack: In some productions, Madame Wolf punches Lucheni in the groin at the end of "Nur kein Genieren".
  • Headbutt of Love: Death and Rudolf do this after their kiss in the Toho production.
  • "The Hero Sucks" Song: "Milch" and "Kitsch" are both about Elisabeth's vanity and selfishness.
  • High Collar of Doom: Sophie wears one in the Korean productions.
  • Historical Beauty Upgrade: The real Luigi Lucheni in no way complements some of the actors who portrayed him on stage.
  • Historical Domain Character: Most of the musicals characters. All of Elisabeth's family, Franz Joseph, Sophie, Rudolf, Lucheni and even some of the obscure minor ones. One could say everyone — Death is certainly present in history...
  • Historical Downgrade: Frau Wolf's establishment wasn't just your average brothel. It was also a spy network, which Rudolf used to spy on, among other people, his cousin Wilhelm II of Prussianote  and vice versa. This wasn't mentioned at all in the musical.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • The show removes most of Rudolf's more unsavory character traits, such as being a drug addicted philanderer who infected his wife with syphilis and coerced a naive 17 year old girl into a murder/suicide pact.
    • The show also cut much of Sisi's poor parenting decisions and painted her in a more sympathetic light in general. She fought for the right to decide on her children's lives, but abandoned her responsibilities to Rudolf as soon as his education ended. She worked herself up into a paranoia that everyone else in her family was out to harm her and her daughter Valerie (she suspected Rudolf of this, particularly). While her decision to turn Rudolf down in the German version can be looked at sympathetically as her being too fed up with the court to try and intervene again rather than actively malicious or callous toward her son's suffering, the Japanese version dials up the upgrade further by having Sisi being visibly disappointed that Rudolf is begging her help on a political matter and very reasonably/well-meaningly telling him that he is grown and should handle his own affairs. That being said, there is no indication (publicly or in Rudolf's personal writings) that such a meeting ("Wenn ich dein Spiegel wär") ever happened in real life.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Just like many other dramatizations of Elisabeth's life, Sophie is portrayed as a scheming, malicious witch who will stop at nothing to subjugate her son and daughter-in-law to her will. Franz initially thinks she's a Reasonable Authority Figure, but wound up Calling The Old Woman Out.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: It never seems to occur to Rudolf that the embodiment of Death might not have his best interests in mind. But then again, with the way he was raised, he is probably overjoyed at anyone at least acting like they care about him and supports him. As mentioned below, More Than Mind Control may come into play as well, as everyone belongs to Death.
  • Hot Consort: Invoked by Franz Joseph and his advisors when they attempt to coerce Elisabeth into using her charm and beauty to quell the civil unrest in Hungary.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Tamaki Ryou as Death embraces two characters and strokes their hair to emphasize (to the audience, complete with a Breaking the Fourth Wall look into the camera) their vulnerability and his influence over them. (Sisi in Saigo no Dansu/Der letzte Tanz, Rudolf in Mama, dokona no?/Mama, wo bist du? and the Mayerling Waltz).
  • I Just Want to Be Free: Elisabeth.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You:
    • Both Franz Joseph and Death toward Elisabeth. It backfires on both of them — Franz Joseph turns into a Love Martyr for her, and Death becomes frustrated with the situation very quickly.
    • Inverted with Rudolf. Compared to his mother, he falls into Death's thrall pretty much the moment they met, and this can be interpreted as the reason some Deaths coldly throw him to the floor after Mayerling.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: A nonverbal one. Tamaki Ryou's Death gives an annoyed-looking Aside Glance right after he has smilingly promised that he was Rudolf's friend and would come whenever the prince calls.
  • Interactive Narrator: Lucheni. Particularly in the Takarazuka version where, at minimum, he takes pictures of the audience so Sisi can collect images of the great beauties. Sometimes accompanied by shoutouts if there happens to be any (current or former) Takarasienne in attendance.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Also lässt du mich im Stich" ("So, you have abandoned me") said first by Elisabeth to Franz Joseph, and later by Rudolf to Elisabeth.
      • Averted by the Takarazuka production, in which Rudolf says, "That's it. There's nothing left to live for."
  • "I Want" Song: "Ich gehör nur mir" ("I Belong to Me"), despite starting out as an "I won't" song. At the time the play is set in, a woman wanting freedom like Elisabeth did would usually have been an impossible dream, but her heart still wants it.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A variation with Franz Joseph. While he doesn't quite let her go and still retains hope that they'll be together, Franz Joseph allows Elisabeth to raise their son and to wander the world because he is devoted to her. Later, he does concede with her that they weren't meant to be together.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Sophie's policy of "Be hard! Be cold!" is actually a good survival/winning strategy in this Crapsack World. She's consistently right: Sisi is not suited for Franz (and courtly life in general), Sisi's insistence on taking her daughters to Hungary killed little Sophie, and Rudolf's fragile mind did him no favors at court. In the end, the "hard and cold" ones win - Sophie successfully drove a wedge between Franz and Sisi (minimizing Sisi's influence on him and Austrian politics), and Death gets the girl (plus the boy, in adaptations where he cares for Rudolf).
  • Kill the Cutie:
    • Poor, poor Rudolf.
    • Elisabeth herself, though depending on the production this may be a case of Died Happily Ever After.
  • Kiss of Death: Quite literally in Rudolf's case, and slightly delayed for Elisabeth who is only kissed by der Tod after her death, though not for lack of trying on his part.
  • Kick the Dog: The Mayerling Waltz, when compared to "Mama, wo bist du?" and even "Die Schatten werden länger". In the Takarazuka productions, der Tod literally kicks Rudolf, sending him rolling across the stage.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Toho Rudolf kneels on both knees in "Die Schatten werden länger". Takarazuka Rudolf goes down on one knee (at a gesture from Death) for Mayerling.
  • Laughing Mad: Takarazuka Lucheni as he's being arrested for Sisi's murder.
  • Large Ham:
    • Elisabeth herself, depending on the actress.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "Der letzte Tanz" has the line "Unsichtbare Augen seh'n uns beiden zu" ("Invisible eyes watch us both"), a possible reference to the audience.
  • Leitmotif:
    • The same melody, Totentanz (Dance of the Dead) plays as Sisi's wedding dance and during Rudolf's suicidal dance with the Death Angels. They are the two characters that die onstage.
    • Sisi herself gets three leitmotifs.
      • "Elisabeth..." sung by Death and Franz Joseph when they're coaxing or begging her.
      • "Elisabeth, Elisabeth!", from the chorus of the dead.
      • The first/last few lines of "Ich gehör nur mir". It returns in "Ich will dir nur sagen",note , "Wenn ich dein Spiegel wär", and "Der Schleier fällt".
    • Rudolf has the melody of "Mama, wo bist du?" which returns in "Totenklage"/"Rudolf, wo bist du?"
  • Lemony Narrator: Lucheni.
  • Lighter and Fluffier: The Takarazuka withholds any mention of precursor social currents to national socialism or Franz Joseph's (alleged) venereal disease. Additionally, rather than at long last consuming Elisabeth's soul, Zuka Death shows her the Kingdom of the Underworld she shall implicitly rule as their new queen.
  • Light Is Not Good: Typically, Death wears white in scenes where he's supposed to show softer emotions, and black during darker scenes. However, given that he's Death, those "light" scenes are still pretty dark. "Wenn ich tanzen will" has him physically restraining Elisabeth and asserting his control over her and "Mama, wo bist du?" has him easing his way into little Rudolf's affections. The lightest scene, perhaps, is him discussing the nature of his feelings for Sisi in "Alle tanzten mit dem Tod". Elisabeth running into a white-clad Death's embrace in "Der Schleier fällt" is only light and fluffy for shippers, otherwise it has disturbing implications (as pointed out in Nightmare Fuel).
  • Love at First Sight: Elisabeth and Death. Then, direly, Elisabeth and Franz Joseph, too. Oops.
  • Love Mother, Love Son: Death falls in love with Elisabeth, then years later has a relationship with Rudolf — though whether it's love or manipulation depends on the actor.
  • Love Triangle: Death/Elisabeth/Franz Joseph. After her wedding to the Emperor, Death comes along and sings to her,
    Es ist ein altes Thema, doch neu für mich
    Zwei, die dieselbe lieben — nämlich dich.
    Which translates to,
    It is an old story, but for me, new
    Two have the same beloved — namely, you.
    • Technically, it's a love quadrangle if you count Rudolf.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Death manipulates everybody all so he can win Elisabeth's love.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Alle tanzten mit dem Tod" ("Everyone has Danced with Death") has the whole gigantic cast on stage and singing.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In some versions, especially the original 1992 version, Death may only exist in Elisabeth's and Rudolf's minds (or in Lucheni's, since he's the narrator), or he may be a real supernatural being that stalks Elisabeth. In other productions Death's existence is much less ambiguous.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Could be considered such because Death is ageless.
  • Medium Awareness: Tsukishiro Kanato (2018, Takarazuka)'s Lucheni asks the audience if they've noticed a camera today, says he too has noticed a camera, and then asks the cameraperson to come closer and make sure he looks handsome.
  • Melancholy Musical Number:
    • "Wenn ich dein Spiegel wär": Rudolf sadly musing about his (lack of a) relationship with his mother, even though they are so similar.
    • "Totenklage/Rudolf, wo bist du?": Sisi mourning her son and regretting that her refusal to help him was his Despair Event Horizon. The Takarazuka productions follow this up with a reprise of Ai to Shi no Rondo, which is Death being upset about his unreciprocated feelings and that Sisi tried to use him as an escape from her grief.
    • "Boote in der Nacht": Franz and Sisi arriving at the conclusion that they're not meant to be.
  • Mind-Control Eyes:
    • Rudolf's expression during "Yami ga hirogaru" in the 2016 Toho production flickers rapidly between unnatural blankness and evident distress. Every time Death's hand gets near his face/head, his eyes briefly unfocus. It shows up again in Mayerling.
    • Same thing with Sisi during "Ai to Shi no Rondo", too.
  • Mind Manipulation:
    • Most obvious with Shirota Yuu and Furukawa Yuta's portrayal of Death and Rudolf. Yuu's Death seems to be able to control humans telepathically/telekinetically, but can reinforce the control through touch (as mentioned in Mind-Control Eyes above).
    • In the same production, Sisi (Hanafusa Mari) slowly grows out of vulnerability to Death's power:
      • Young Sisi in the realm of Death is easily controlled, dancing along with the Angels, falling unconscious when Death waves a hand in front of her face.
      • She's visibly fighting him (looking terrified and in pain, clutching at her head) in "Saigo no Dansu" ("Der letzte Tanz") but flickers in and out of it at some points.
      • She doesn't seem to be affected at all in the first act's version of "Yami ga hirogaru" ("Die Schatten werden länger"), only grieving for baby Sophie. Notable for Death getting up close to her, grabbing her wrist, and whispering into her ear (she flinches at this).
      • "Watashi ga odoru toki" ("Wenn ich tanzen will") sees Sisi triumphant, out of Death's reach for almost the entirety of the song. She easily breaks out of his physical contact, and maintains a victorious smile throughout. She even Trolls him by pretending to take his hand when he offers it, and then actually pulling away before they touch.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Elisabeth is 14 when we first see her; Rudolf is about six the first time and then reappears at about eleven before we finally see him as a young man. (It varies from production to production whether or not the same child actor plays him as a small child and again as a preteen. Takarazuka cuts the younger Rudolf altogether, only showing preteen Rudolf during Mama, wo bist du - albeit played by an adult actress.)
  • Mood Whiplash: "Nichts ist schwer" ("Nothing is Hard"), a tender love song between teenage Sisi and Franz Joseph, is immediately followed by the Ominous Pipe Organ of "Alle Fragen sind gestellt" ("All Questions Have Been Asked"), which doubles as Soundtrack Dissonance since it's the accompaniment to their wedding (and thus the first foreshadowing that things will not end well). The original production made the whiplash even harder by having the lovers suddenly collapse like puppets with cut strings as soon as "Nichts ist schwer" ended.
  • Momma's Boy: Oh, Franz Joseph. Sophie, in her misguided way, wants the best for him. It's too bad Sisi and Rudolf got caught in the crossfire. Franz stands up to her twice: once in "Ich gehör nur mir (Reprise)" when he overrides the Queen Mother to give Sisi final say on how her children are raised, and called his mother out in "Streit Mütter und Sohn/Mama, ich bin ausser mir" for her maltreatment of Sisi and her attempts to break his marriage in the name of throne and country. It's too little, too late for his wife and son.
  • More Than Mind Control: Death seems to have this type of influence over Rudolf. They first meet while little Rudolf is sadly calling to his mother, and their first exchange translates to
    Death: She can't hear you. Don't call to her.
    Rudolf: Who are you?
    Death: I am a friend. When you need me, I'll come to you. (Moves as though to leave)
    Rudolf: Stay!
    Death: I'll stay close.
    • And little Rudolf's proud statement of "Yesterday I killed a cat!" seems to imply that he realizes that his new friend is Death incarnate, but trusts him. And Rudolf still completely trusts Death when he shows up again 18 YEARS LATER. Death then makes his More Than Mind Control even stronger with "Die Schatten werden langer."
    • In most productions, the choreography of "Die Schatten werden langer" includes Death physically grabbing Rudolf and manipulating his actions, usually not very gently. In at least one production, Death pulls Rudolf closer without even touching him, apparently through some form of telekinesis. Aside from dodging the lethal kisses Death attempts to give him, Rudolf doesn't resist this manipulation. In the Takarazuka version, Rudolf actively reaches for Death's hand or otherwise deliberately puts himself in a position that makes the direct physical manipulation possible. Multiple times.
      • A dance move prevalent in many productions is Death dragging Rudolf forward, Rudolf fighting back, but his feet keep inching towards Death.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Happens in the Takarazuka productions during a reprise of "Ich gehör nur mir" when Lucheni takes a picture of the Empress.
  • My Beloved Smother: Sophie.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Rudolf, where are you? Can you hear me calling?
  • Napoleon Delusion: Elisabeth visits an insane asylum and meets a patient who believes that she herself is the empress. Elisabeth envies the woman's happiness in her role.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • The Takarazuka version paints Sisi's refusal to intercede on Rudolf's behalf as stemming from her disappointment that he's asking her to solve a (political) issue note , with her telling him that he's an adult now and should deal with his own issues. Sounds like a reasonable thing for a mother to say, but it was the final straw that drove Rudolf to suicide.
    • Sisi's attempt to take back her independence and spend time with her daughters (who had been taken away from her by Sophie) backfired, leading to Gisela's illness and little Sophie's death.
  • No Fourth Wall: For Lucheni, at least.
  • Not So Different: Elisabeth realizes that this is the case between herself and Rudolf far too late.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Sophie. She starts out complaining that Elisabeth isn't suited to Franz Joseph (and to be fair, she's right) and ends up sending Franz Joseph to a brothel just to weaken Elisabeth's influence.
  • Obsession Song: Death, three times, all of the aggressive type.
    • "Die Schatten werden länger", act 1. "You need me. Yes, you need me."
    • He actually gets physically aggressive with Sisi during "Der letzte Tanz" and "Wenn ich tanzen will": dancing violently, throwing her around, kneeling between her legs and leaning in very close to her face, grabbing her by the wrists/hands and then the back of the head... All of this is done while he reiterates that no one loves/understands her as he does, she is free only through him, and she will want him/be his eventually.
    • "Ai to Shi no Rondo", added for the Japanese production and eventually made its way back to the German production as "Rondo - Schwarzer Prinz", has Death saying that he will pursue Elisabeth until he wins her love.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Toho production has a lot of these moments.
    • The arresting police officers panicking when they realized they nearly threw the Crown Prince in jail.
    • Rudolf, pushed to the floor (either shoved by Inoue Yoshio's Death, or flicked by Shirota Yuu's Death), makes a horrified face and frantically backs away when Death gets in his personal space.
    • Rudolf seems to come to his senses from Death's Mind Manipulation in Mayerling and tries to make a break for it as what he is about to do sinks in. Death hauls him back telekinetically, and Rudolf - quite possibly no longer of his own volition - frantically begs Death for the gun.
    • In a funny moment, Lucheni made this face when he got caught in the middle of Sophie and Max's argument in "Sie passt nicht".
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: The Takarazuka Revue production gives this to the leads (Death and Sisi). They are Together in Death (well, when one's love interest/Stalker with a Crush is Death...), and the show ends with Death showing Sisi the underworld that she will (implicitly) be queen of, and he having gotten the girl. How do the other major characters fare? Franz Joseph outlives his wife (who he loved unconditionally, but she eventually ceased to return his affection) by decades. Sophie dies without much fanfare. The Hungarian revolutionaries are arrested. Rudolf has been Driven to Suicide.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Elisabeth and Franz Joseph live to witness the death of their infant daughter and, later, Rudolf's suicide.
    • A peasant mother comes to beg Franz Joseph to spare the life of her revolutionary son, who has been sentenced to death for treason. Her efforts fail.
    • Sophie's second oldest son, Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, is shown at the end being executed by Mexican revolutionaries.
  • Parental Abandonment: Elisabeth is actively prevented from having a hand in raising her son Rudolf; upon realizing this, she stops trying to have one. As an aging woman, she finally realizes her father, Max, whom she idolized, was emotionally (and frequently physically) absent from her life and never gave her the emotional support she craved from him.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • Death's doctor costume. Some actors don't even wear a hat, making it even more obvious. Justified, though, since he's Death, and so presumably has some way to prevent Elisabeth recognising him. Averted with Shirota Yuu, who actually pitches his voice lower, growls, and has a cane, a limp, and his back to the audience.
    • His disguise as Mary Vetsera during the Mayerling Waltz is also quite obvious in some productions.
  • Pep-Talk Song: Oddly enough, "Die Schatten werden länger (Reprise)" has Death encouraging Rudolf to take action and rebel against his father. The Takarazuka and Toho productions have "Verschwörung" follow it, which has the straighter example of the revolutionaries giving Rudolf another pep talk to the same end.
  • Pet the Dog: Takarazuka has Sisi embracing Miss Windisch (the woman at the asylum). Manaki Reika (2018 production)'s Sisi exchanged her fine black fan for the woman's tattered one.
  • Perspective Flip: Takarazuka's main draw being the male roles, they needed to make Death the main character, so Levay collaborated with Takarazuka to compose the song Ai To Shi No Rondo/Kein Kommen Ohne Geh'n which humanized Death and placed his emotional journey at the center of the story. Strangely, the Hungarian version with a far more inhuman death used the song as well.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Death usually holds Elisabeth this way at the very end.
  • Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You:
    • Rudolf running after the angels and/or begging Death for the gun in some productions. He obliges.
    • Sisi finally giving in and begging Death to Mercy Kill her after Rudolf's death. He does not oblige this time - he straight up turns her away in disgust after he hears her begging in the German productions. The Japanese production has him going in for the Kiss of Death first, before realizing she's just using him to get out of her grief.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: A mother tries to save her son - whose only offense was, according to her, yelling "Freedom" - from execution by pleading Franz Joseph for his mercy. If it weren't for Sophie, it would've worked.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Franz Joseph's inability to communicate/mediate between his mother and wife causes much consternation. It arguably causes the death of little Sophie, because if there hadn't been such a rift between Sophie the elder and Sisi, the Empress might not have insisted on her daughters accompanying her to Hungary.
    • Sisi's unwillingness/inability to understand Rudolf's desperate situation is the last straw that drives him to suicide. The Japanese productions have her explicitly misjudge the situation as only political, and one Rudolf can get out of on his own because he's an adult capable of handling things maturely - making her more sympathetic than merely turning him away because she has cut her bonds with the Emperor.
  • Pose of Supplication: In the Takarazuka version, Rudolf kneels and clings to Death a lot, in both Die Schatten and Mayerling. In the original German production, Rudolf also kneels and buries his face in Death's lap/thigh.
    • In one live performance of Die Schatten werden länger at Musical Meets Opera, because there was no carriage, der Tod (Mark Seibert) stood while Rudolf (Anton Zetterholm) clung bodily to one leg.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: There's an example that overlaps with the Kiss of Death in the Toho production with Shirota Yuu as Death and Furukawa Yuta as Rudolf. Inverted in that Rudolf is the one that initiates the kiss, and also the one who's left staring blankly as Death walks away. He then shoots himself.
  • The Power of Love: Invoked by Franz Joseph during Boote in der Nacht when he visits Sisi during one of her wanderings and tries to get her to return home by saying that love can heal anything, to which Sisi says that they weren't meant to be.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Depending on the production, the Mayerling Waltz can either look like cold-blooded murder, Driven to Suicide, or this.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Except for one lapse in self control, Mark Seibert's Death wore this constantly on his face during Der letzte Tanz, whether he's violently dancing with Sisi, invading her personal space, or just generally gloating. Enjoy.
  • Queer Romance: Regardless of Death's ulterior motive or attitude towards Rudolf, there is still a seduction scene/subplot.
  • Quizzical Tilt: Shirota Yu's Death is fond of this, as his take on the character is an inhuman being intrigued by humans.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Elisabeth, in a case of Truth in Television. When we first see her, her hair is already down to her waist; by the time she dies, it's gathered into braids that are wrapped around her head several times and still settle between her shoulderblades.
  • Rays from Heaven: During the ending as performed by Pia Douwes and Uwe Kröger, these rays shine down on Elisabeth and Death when he comes for her after her assassination. This shows how, in death, she has the freedom she had always longed for. She has hope, she can go up to the sky.
  • Rebellious Princess: Elisabeth fits this trope like a glove fits a hand. Considering the way her story ends, could be a deconstruction.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: This trope gradually creeps up over the course of the show — the common people are shown progressing from being innocent trampled victims of the upper class to the scapegoating predecessors of Those Wacky Nazis in their growing distaste for the old order.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The musical reuses melodies in a completely different context. The most notable example is the music played at Elisabeth's wedding in act one, which towards the end of act two is played again at Rudolf's suicide. Also at Elisabeth's wedding, the tune of the song her guests sing is given new lyrics and reused in act two as her husband cheats on her. Watching the show more than once turns the wedding music into especially grim Foreshadowing.
  • Romantic False Lead: Elisabeth's elder sister Helene, for all of about five minutes. Given that the musical isn't named after her, we know in advance how this'll end. Though Helene exits the stage with sadness at her wasted efforts, in real life she actually found a much happier marriage than that of Elisabeth and Franz Joseph.
  • Royally Screwed Up: During "An Deck der sinkenden Welt" ("On the Deck of the Sinking World"), Lucheni lists all of Elisabeth's family members who've gone crazy or died of unnatural causes.
    • Then there's the main characters: Elisabeth, who ends up well and truly broken by the end; Franz Joseph; Sophie; and Rudolf, who is possibly the only character more miserable than Elisabeth. And then there's Death, who is royalty of some sort (Lucheni calls him "His Majesty", and the Japanese versions call him "Lord of the Underworld") and is certainly very screwed-up.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The Vienna stagings run heavily on this, every which way, from the necklace Franz Joseph gives Elisabeth to seal their engagement looking like a heavy gold noose to the fact that Rudolf's ghost appears as his child-self still weeping for his mother to comfort him after all this time.
    • The 2005 Vienna revival is very fond of puppet symbolism/imagery. Lucheni is the puppeteer and the dead the puppets in the prologue, Death is the puppeteer to Elisabeth and Rudolf in "Wenn ich tanzen will" and "Die Schatten werden länger" respectively, and there is a moment in "Am Deck der sinkenden Welt," when Death briefly plays puppetmaster to Lucheni after throwing him the file, and Lucheni falls limply to the ground when Death breaks his hold.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Subverted, in that "Nichts, Nichts, Gar Nichts" ("Nothing, Nothing, Nothing At All") is the song in which Elisabeth makes a conscious decision NOT to go mad, however tempting the prospect.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!:
    • Toho Rudolf got out of being arrested by revealing his identity. "Rudolf..." [reluctantly] "Habsburg." Cue the arresting officers going Oh, Crap! at the fact that they were about to throw the Crown Prince in jail.
    • In the Takarazuka production, the guards recognize Rudolf without prompting, but only after they've grabbed him and pointed rifles at him.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • In the Hungarian production, a dancer - possibly Mary Vetsera's stand-in - rips Rudolf's shirt off. It's hanging at his waist when he receives the kiss of Death.
    • The Todesengels in the Toho productions are shirtless in almost all of their appearances in Act 2. In the same productions, Death is technically never shirtless, but his shirts don't leave a lot to the imagination either.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Tamaki Ryou's Death (Takarazuka, 2018) is examining a skull as his angels bring Elisabeth to the underworld. Might double as Actor Allusion, as Tama had played Laertes in Zuka's adaptation of Hamlet.
    • Death and Sisi's conversation at the end of "Elisabeth, mach auf" sounds like an expanded version of Schubert's lied "Der Tod und das Mädchen" (Death and the Maiden) with Death speaking first. It's also emphasized in the staging, with Sisi wearing white (for Rule of Symbolism as she is technically no longer a maiden, and this song marks one of her turning points in Character Development), and Death in black reaching out for her.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Máté Kamarás' raspy voice (although still tenor) creates this contrast in "Wenn ich tanzen will".
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Elisabeth and Franz Joseph's wedding scene is performed as a morbid funeral march.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Presumably happens to Elisabeth's daughter Sophie in the Takarazuka versions. Her illness and death are never mentioned, but she never appears again.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: "Sie möchte, dass Franz Joseph sich mit Helene... trifft."
  • Sung-Through Musical: The only spoken lines are when Lucheni provides exposition for the audience, Liechtenstein talking to "Doctor Seeburger", and a few words by Franz Joseph at the beginning of "Boote in der Nacht". Takarazuka and Toho have more spoken lines, though.
  • Swing Low, Sweet Harriet: For the Elisabeth in Concert productions, the titular character falls off a swing (pushed by Death) instead of a tightrope.
  • Take That!: "Kitsch" has these lines: "But what she really was like/ is something that you'll never learn from any book or movie" - the movies meant are, of course, the Sissi trilogy with Romy Schneider.
  • Take That, Audience!:
    • In the song "Kitsch", Lucheni mocks the audience for expecting a pretty fairy tale about the lovely empress and her handsome husband. Note that the audiences of the original production went in expecting exactly that.
    • Uwe Kröger, the original Death, went into his audition thinking it was an adaptation of the 1950s "Sissi" films and hoping to be cast as Franz Joseph, so the show kind of surprised everyone with its Darker and Edgier approach.
  • Time Skip: Several of them. Justified, as the show covers Elisabeth's life from age 14 to her death at 61.
  • Together in Death: Or with Death in this case.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: This trailer blatantly shows the Mayerling Waltz. (Sisi's death doesn't count, because Lucheni says "I killed her because she wanted to die," some several seconds into the video.) It's not much of a spoiler for German/Austrian audiences, or people familiar with that era, because both the Empress' Impaled with Extreme Prejudice and the Crown Prince's Murder-Suicide is well-known. Outside of that, though, viewers caught unaware (especially those who have issues with viewing gun violence and suicide) are in for a potential shock. The trailer narrator even says, "It's more than a show, it's history."
  • Troubled Fetal Position:
    • The Takarazuka choreography for Yami ga hirogaru has Death breaking Rudolf out of this.
    • A distressed Sisi starts Ich gehör nur mir in this.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Oh, Rudolf. "Yesterday I killed a cat!" The blow is softened because he clarifies it with "I can be hard and evil like the world is, but sometimes I would rather be soft." - implying that he may not have wanted to do it, or taken any joy in it.
  • True Love's Kiss: Also serves as the Kiss of Death in this case.
  • The Dead Can Dance: Shown in the awesome "Prologue".
  • The Unfair Sex: Averted, in that it's hard to blame Franz Joseph for seeking out a prostitute's affections when Elisabeth ignores him as much as she does.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: When the young Elisabeth wakes up in the arms of Death after her fall, she implores "her dark prince" not to leave her, saying she felt good in his arms. He leaves, but comes back to gloat at her wedding that he'll win her in the end, when she's no longer interested. While mourning, Elisabeth calls out to him (mostly out of desperation), but he won't have her anymore. In the end, though, it works out... in a way.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: All over the place, with some plot points being based on mere hearsay. It's partially justified by the fact that Lucheni is an Unreliable Narrator, with a vested interest in driving the Judge (and the audience, by extension) against Sisi.
    • Sophie was more of a Knight Templar Parent in real life than the Evil Matriarch of the show. She also initially got along with Sisi, instead of disapproving of her from day one.
    • Franz Joseph never secretly cheated on Sisi, or gave her an STD. She actually encouraged and endorsed his relationship with Katharina Schratt. Rudolf was the one rumored to have syphilis - which he might have passed onto his wife, Stéphanie.
    • The meeting at Bad Ischl was not a Love at First Sight incident on Sisi's part. She was inconsolable at the death of a Count Richard S., who she had fallen in love with. Ludovika took her to Bad Ischl in hopes of pulling her out of sorrow. (Franz Joseph, however, did instantly become infatuated with her, which she was initially oblivious about.)
    • The show cut out Rudolf's more unsavory actions. He had an obsession with death and violence that escalated as he aged note , utilized a spy ring (incidentally, run by Madame Wolf), had multiple lovers note , and, as a 30-year-old, coerced the 17-year-old Mary Vetsera into Murder-Suicide. note 
      • That being said, he did write firebrand articles anonymously, but stopped short of participating in a public demonstration (as the Toho and Takarazuka versions have it). The question of his disinheriting was never brought up, either. note  While he was a hunter and naturalist, he also did not kill any cat (that we know of.) Here's Rudolf as a young boy, with a cat.
    • Sisi did become cynical and depressed, but she continued having flirtations with men, in a "look but don't touch" way, never letting them get emotionally close to her.
    • The show portrays Sisi leaving Franz Joseph shortly after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, but in reality they still lived together as a married couple for quite some time; in fact, Sisi gave birth to their last child Marie Valerie during that time period. Sisi didn't become estranged from her husband until after Rudolf's death in 1889, but even then she would still spend some of her time living in Vienna with her family.
    • The Takarazuka Revue added the supernatural element of Death taking the knife that Sisi tried to kill herself with in "Watashi dake ni" (Ich gehör nur mir), showing it to her later on, and handing it to Lucheni to use as her murder weapon. It also painted her death as her being Driven to Suicide to reunite with Death and finally be free of her suffering. In real life (and other productions), Lucheni stabbed her with a file, and everyone (including Sisi) were unaware of the fact until she fainted and her outer clothing was undone, revealing the wound.
  • Villain Song: Almost every song could be seen as this, depending on your point of view, but the most obvious examples are "Der letzte Tanz", "Kitsch", "Hass", and "Die Schatten werden länger".
  • Villain Recruitment Song: "Die Schatten werden länger". Especially overt in productions that have Rudolf's rebellion subplot, because Death is present at every point of Rudolf's involvement with the Hungarians, pulling the strings - Rudolf is essentially working for Death after "Die Schatten".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Gisela, Elisabeth's second child, is mentioned in "Die ersten vier Jahre" and "Elisabeth, mach auf mein Engel", then disappears from the story.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Death falls in love with Sisi, spends a song mulling it over note , and decides that loving her means pursuing her wherever she goes and persuading her to die so she could be with him.
  • "What Now?" Ending: The very last shot of the Toho DVD is Death, having kissed Sisi, looking at the camera with a stunned, lost expression. Cut to black.
  • White Shirt of Death: Although there's no blood, after she's been stabbed, Sisi takes off her black mourning coat, revealing the white dress she wore as a teenage girl and runs to embrace Death.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Death kills Elisabeth's daughter Sophie, and in the Toho productions he aims a gun at young Rudolf. Furukawa Yuta's Death offers the gun to the boy, holding it by the barrel, to foreshadow the Mayerling Waltz.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Some Deaths go for this in Mayerling. Furukawa Yuta's Death is quite sad about Rudolf's failure to be much of a challenge, but it doesn't stop him from slapping Kyomoto Taiga's Rudolf or failing to reciprocate the kiss from Miura Ryosuke's Rudolf. Even the one he seemed to hate least, Tatsunari Kimura's Rudolf, only got Death looking at him as he shot himself ("seeing him off") as a "reward".


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