St Petersburg, Mariinsky II

Anna Karenina

ballet by Alexei Ratmansky set to music by Rodion Shchedrin


Anna Karenina: Alina Somova
Alexei Karenin: Ivan Oskorbin
Count Vronsky: Konstantin Zverev
Princess Betsy: Zlata Yalinich


Music by Rodion Shchedrin
Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky (2010)

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Set and Costumes by Mikael Melbye
Video Graphics Designer: Wendall Harrington
Lighting Designer: Jørn Melin
Lighting Adaptation for the Mariinsky II by Andrei Ponizovsky
Dramatic concept by Martin Tulinius
Assistant Choreographer: Tatiana Ratmanskaya

Production by Poland’s Opera Narodowa (Teatr Wielki, Warszawa)
Supported by the Deutsch-Russische Ballettstiftung


Vronsky is at a railway station where there has been an accident. Looking at Anna’s dead body, he now understands that his life has lost all meaning.

Act I
Anna Karenina arrives in Moscow to visit her brother Steve’s family. On the train she meets the Countess Vronskaya, Alexei’s mother.
Anna and Vronsky are introduced. By chance they are witnesses to an accident: the train crushes someone to death.
At Prince Shcherbatsky’s house Levin proposes to Kitty, but she rejects him because she is in love with Vronsky.
At the ball, Anna dances with Vronsky the entire evening, and he is unable to hide his admiration for the young woman. Kitty is in despair: she was expecting Vronsky to propose marriage and give her his heart.
Anna returns to St Petersburg. She is troubled by thoughts about Vronsky and she wishes to depart as soon as possible in order never to see him again.
But Vronsky climbs aboard the same train. At Bologoe station, Alexei declares his love to Anna.
At the station in St Petersburg Anna is met by her husband – Alexei Karenin. Seeing her dearly beloved son returns Anna to her normal routine.
At Princess Betsy Tverskaya’s salon, Anna meets Vronsky once again. His advances become increasingly insistent. Anna accepts them.
Karenin is puzzled at Anna’s behaviour and asks her not to take any unconsidered steps and not to break the well-known laws of morality which cannot go unpunished, but Anna makes as if she does not understand her husband’s warnings. 
Left alone, Vronsky thinks of Anna incessantly. In a dream he sees the man crushed at the railway station, and this is followed by a succession of visions in which Anna appears.
Anna comes to see Vronsky…

Act II
All of St Petersburg society has assembled at the racecourse in Krasnoe Selo. At the races Anna’s eyes remain glued on Vronsky. All of a sudden Vronsky’s horse falls.
Anna cannot control her emotions. She admits that she loves Vronsky to Karenin. Karenin demands that Anna leave the races with him.
Karenin doesn’t like society gossiping and chattering and insists that outer appearances are kept up.
Anna is seriously ill. On the verge of death she asks her husband’s forgiveness and he promises to forget her betrayal. However, on recovering from her illness Anna learns from Betsy Tverskaya that Vronsky tried to commit suicide. She leaves her husband and son and departs for Italy with Vronsky.
Anna misses her son and returns to Russia. She secretly gains admission to Karenin’s house to see Seryozha, but her husband drives her out.
Anna’s despair at being separated from her son and the humiliation she feels when she goes to the opera have broken her heart. The social circle in which Vronsky stands is closed to her. Tormented by loneliness and jealousy Anna sees no other solution than killing herself. She throws herself under a train.

About the production

In Anna Karenina Alexei Ratmansky succeeded as an artist with a perfect sense of measure in interpreting Leo Tolstoy's great novel with cinematic ease, without superfluous sentimentality revealing the power of the vast plot and within the atmosphere of his production conveying the stylistics of the literary basis. Ratmansky condensed Rodion Shchedrin's initial three-act score, first embodied in ballet by Maya Plisetskaya, into two acts. Leaving the unhurried and bulky narrative to the drama-ballet genre of the past, he concentrated the choreographic action on the emotional sufferings of Anna and Vronsky, while at the same time retaining the eloquent but dance-sparse mise-en-scènes. The choreographer constructed the plot as a series of Vronsky's recollections already after Anna's death. In the scenes of the ballet that tempestuosly follow one after another the dance is laconic and unfolds in capacious forms only in the key episodes. Like landmarks of their mental existences, the protagonists' duets become emotional and dance explosions, prepared by the intensity of the external events denoted and the restrained nature of their choreographic exposition. The performers of the lead roles face the task of living and narrating the stories of their characters in nine duets.
When, in 2010, Ratmansky was working on this production with dancers from the Mariinsky Theatre he rehearsed the lead female role with three ballerinas. Taking into account the differences of their individual mental and physical make-up and their idiosynchracies, the choreographer altered the text for each dancer, allowing freedom for personal interpretations. The interpretation of the role of Anna was defined by the performers, each stressing a feature of this multi-faceted character that is close to her personally. If the mutual attraction and doubts of Anna and Vronsky are presented through dance in the ballet, then Alexei Karenin is a character who acts rather than dances. His inner world is revealed in gestures and the way he walks. Indeed, initially this image was conceived as a role for an experienced actor. In a production where the action unfolds with impressive, utterly non-Tolstoy-like speed, in the changes between the scenes it is only on the three major characters that light remains truly focussed. The other characters are indicated as if by a dotted line, though the plastique colours of the countless characters create volume and an entourage against the background of which a dance drama of truly Tolstoy-like dimensions unfolds.
Olga Makarova

Premiere of Rodion Shchedrin's ballet choreographed by Maya Plisetskaya – 10 June 1972, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
Premiere of the ballet choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky – 4 April 2004, The Royal Danish Theatre, Copenhagen
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre – 15 April 2010

Running time 1 hour 45 minutes
The performance has one interval

Age category 12+

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