Royal Opera House
Saturday, 29th October 2016
Anastasia – 10/29/2016
Anastasia: Natalia Osipova
Husband: Edward Watson
Tsar Nicholas: Christopher Saunders
Tsarina Alexandra: Christina Arestis
Grand Duchess Olga: Olivia Cowley
Grand Duchess Tatiana: Beatriz Stix-Brunell
Grand Duchess Maria: Yasmine Naghdi
Rasputin: Thiago Soares
Mathilde Kchessinska: Marianela Nunez
Cavalier: Federico Bonelli
MacMillan is and will forever be my favourite choreographer ever: among all the greatest, no one ever created ballets of unrivalled psychological depth as his. Romeo and Juliet, Mayerling, Manon… Anastasia is just another gem in his stunning repertoire, and with this revival Royal is bringing the wake of Russian Revolution to the stage with massive intensity.
When first entering ROH, a Romanov family portrait starred replacing red curtains, showing Tsar Nicholas II along with his wife Alexandra, his son Alexei and daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, with the latter’s signature above the black and white picture.
And what a stellar cast! Natalia Osipova, Edward Watson, Marianela Nunez, Federico Bonelli and Thiago Soares, all together in portraying such a turbulent yet amazing story.
I was so thrilled as I longed to see this show and I wasn’t disappointed – I also had an argument during the interval (yeah, it’s actually possible, believe me), as the man next to me defined the the first act “all about lace, ribbons and smiles”, and the second one “too opulent”. He definitely must have missed some history classes while at school, what the hell could he expect from the Imperial Russia?! And by the way, is there something better than lace and ribbons?
Never mind, I truly enjoyed the wonderful Dostoyevskyan portrait of the time though: loved the joyfulness of act one, the regality of act two and act three was an absolute piece of art.
Act I takes place on the imperial yacht (great scenography), depicting the youth of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, and even if I read a lot of negative reviews about the first two parts of the ballet being just ‘decorative’ and without point, I believe they stressed the focus on the close bond between Anastasia and her family building up characters’ psychology and relationships. A very important theme in order to understand Anna Anderson’s turmoils in act III.
The first act is an ensemble of academic classical dances, in full Tchaikovsky’s virtuoso and fluent style (indeed, I found the score really flawless and the choreography was perfectly melted with it). We all know Natalia is a great interpreter, and she portrayed a joyful and lively young Anastasia – loved in particular her sisters, danced by Olivia Cowley, Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Yasmine Naghdi (whom I adore). The sisters’ part was such an Austenite scene (what a treat for a lover of all things Austenish as I am).
Act II is located in the imperial palace, and here comes Marianela!
As the Romanovs give a reception for Anastasia’s debut (the setting was amazing: a true portrait of the Winter Palace), ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska, Nicholas II’s mistress, is among guests along with her cavalier, played by Federico Bonelli. It’s not a primary role, but Marianela made it a principal one: she dazzled wonderfully, she was pure grace, hands up for her, that’s all. Both in the pas de deux with Federico and in the pas de quatre alongside the imperial couple she smashed yet another performance! I should not be surprised, but every single time I see her in a new role I’m stunned by her versatility.
At the end of the act World War I is declared, whilst the Russian Revolution brings Romanovs’ privileged lives to an end. Bolsheviks storm the palace bringing the audience to the greatest emotional rollercoaster ever: act III is shattering, haunting and turbulent, and Natalia pulled out all the stops in a performance to remember.
In the final act we are brought to an asylum, where Anna Andersen, a woman who believes herself to be Anastasia, sole survivor from the massacre of the Romanovs in 1918, is kept incarcerated. In an aching succession of confused nightmares/memories/fantasies, she recalls her past in the Imperial family leading up to the Russian Revolution in a poignant journey into her disturbed mind: we see her older sister, her brother (flying Alexei got me like 😳), her husband…
One thing I actually found hair-raising (and appropriate, considering the reality of the story) was Thiago hanging around creepy as Rasputin, somehow imposing himself and stressing his power between the Imperial family, acting on the sidelines but always present.
MacMillan left the audience to decide the legitimacy of Anna’s claims after such an act, and when the lights turned on everyone was amazed by this poignant work of his.