A must see for balletomanes, this is completely Natalia Ospiova’s show as Anastasia and she is more than sensational.
The Royal Ballet has just completed the live performances of this production which took place at between the 26th October and the 12th November. We are privileged to see this amazing production via the filming of the performance which took place on the 2nd November which is being presented as part of the current Palace Opera and Ballet season.
The ballet’s subject is the mysterious woman, known as Anna Anderson, who was incarcerated in a mental hospital in Berlin from 1920 and claimed to be Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, who somehow escaped from the cellar where the imperial family had been murdered by the Bolsheviks. Choreographer Kenneth MacMillan explores the whole notion – Was she or wasn’t she?!
The last act was created first in Berlin during the 1960’s the other two acts added in 1971 upon MacmIllan’s return to London and it had some tweaking and reworkings in 1996.
The score uses Tchaikovsky for the first two acts and blends sharp electronic music and a Martinu symphony for Act 3.
There is a sense particularly in the first two acts of a lost world of almost decadent luxury. Some of the women’s costumes with their lace and pearls are simply ravishing.
The first act of the full-length version takes place on the imperial yacht and the second in the imperial palace.
For Act 1 there is a tilted steamer funnel with the Imperial eagle, for Act 2 chandeliers at odd angles that look like exploding fireworks.
Act 3 is set in a bleak psychiatric ward empty but for a bed. Original grainy black and white footage of the Romanovs is included.
MacMillan’s fiendishly difficult, brilliant choreography is dazzlingly danced blending contemporary dance, folk dance, formal ballroom and ‘traditional’ ballet. There are some amazing challenging lifts in the pas de deux. The choreography features a mix of expressionism, lyricism and classicism.
There are fragments of folk dance in both the first two acts, the nurses in Act 3 stamp out a Russian dance, while in Act 3 the well-dressed visitors are rather threatening and overly inquisitive. Do they recognize ‘Anastasia’?!
Superstar Osipova as Anastasia was amazing, giving a sublime performance. In Act 1 she is luminous as the young tomboyish Anastasia, and has a delicious entrance on roller skates.
In Act 2, her coming out ball, she is radiant and refined but still with hints of her younger self. In Act 3 ,with her short gamin haircut and wild, haunted eyes, she is incredible in a gut wrenching performance as ‘mad’ Anastasia/Anna Anderson with fragmented memories of her past life.
She shapes each phrase of Macmillan’s extremely demanding – at times almost impossible – choreography with rigour and great subtlety allowing us glimpses of a tortured soul.
In Act 3, while watching archival footage with deadened eyes, Anastasia suddenly jumps up from her chair, impulsively stretching out to what she believes is her past self.
As her parents Nicholas 11 and Alexandra, Christopher Saunders and Christina Arestis were regal yet loving. Her three sisters and their suitors are enchantingly portrayed.
In Act 2 as part of Anastasia’s birthday celebrations there is the set piece Kschessinskaya pas de deux for the ex mistress of the Tsar and her partner which is in some ways like the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. Marianela Nunez was dazzling in her short black and gold tutu as was her dance partner Federico Bonelli.
Thiego Soares as Rasputin was tall, ominous and menacing. The choreography alludes to the rumours of how he manipulated the Romanovs yet was also influential in healing the Tsarevtich Alexei’s life. at times.
Edward Watson as The Husband in Act 3 was splendid with some very tricky lifts in the pas de deux. The question is, did Anna remember him?!
This was a magnificent, challenging and harrowing work presented by a master of choreographic and emotional nuance.
Running time – allow 3 hours 10 minutes which covers two intervals. During the intervals there are behind the scenes of the production snippets as well as interviews.
ANASTASIA, part of the Palace Opera and Ballet season, is screening at selected Palace cinemas until 7th December.