Anna Karenina. Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg.


The world famous Kirov Ballet, now reverting to the pre-Soviet name of The Mariinsky, is coming to London.  I caught the work during The Stars Of The White Nights in St Petersburg.

Anna Karenina, which premièred in 2004 and has already been seen in London in 2011, is a stunningly cinematic interpretation of the famous Tolstoy novel choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, set to a disturbing score by renowned Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin.   Shchedrin is married to the Kirov ballerina Maya Plisestkaya.

Can Tolstoy’s novel work as a ballet?  Surprisingly, it can.  Ratmansky’s choreography finds a vocabulary to translate passion, anxiety and erotic love in an original way.  I particularly liked Ratmansky’s open legged lifts in his pas de deux and the way he externalises dis-harmony by having his lead ballerina pirouette around her own flat foot.  Moving across various locations from the domestic to the political, Ratmansky uses cinematic projections by Wendall Harrington to help the literary become the balletic.  The casting was impeccable and the dance looked as if the dancers had invented it themselves, so easy was their interpretation and so sensitive.  Viktoria Tereshkina was Anna, Viktor Baranov her tormented husband Karenin, Vladmir Shklyarov was her virile Vronsky and Maria Shirinkina was a poignant Kitty.  I wish this ballet were in more European repertoires.  It thrillingly narrates Tolstoy’s masterpiece without uttering a word.

George Balanchine’s 1962 A MidsummerNight’s Dream added to Felix Mendelssohn’s original score and London audiences, used to the  Ashton version, may be surprised by the additions.

This is the Mariinsky’s 2012 production which is to be performed for the first time out of Russia.

I have never seen a narrative ballet by Balanchine and was curious as to how he would tackle Shakespeare.  His triumph is with the erotic passages of the text and his interest is to make work for Titania more than for the other characters.  Viktoria Tereshkina, again takes the lead, and she is such a natural Balanchine dancer it would seem as if  he had created the original role for her.  Unlike Ashton’s version seen often in the Royal Opera House repertoire, this is a sexier telling of the erotic love between Titania for her lover Bottom/the ass.  The work has not dated and the costumes for Titania’s entourage are fresh with a quasi-Laura Ashley design.  Unwilling to stay with the narrative more than the first act, the second act is a triumph of dance for dance sake in a marriage display of unrelated storytelling.  This shows off the legendary Kirov/Mariinsky skills and spotlights the brilliance of the Company.

For deviating from the original dramaturgy, Balanchine can be forgiven, even by Shakespeare.

Tereshkina is in the London casting.

Julia Pascal © 2014.