#Throwback Thursday: Anna Karenina

This week's #Throwback Thursday features recent ballet Anna Karenina.

Based on the iconic novel of the same name by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first appearing as a serial in 1873, the ballet starts with a prologue. Count Vronsky stands at the railway station, where there has evidently been an accident; a woman has thrown herself in front of a train and died. He is in mourning, though it is not yet explained why. Act I then commences as a flashback. Princess Anna Karenina is visiting her brother's family in Moscow and is arriving on the train from St. Petersburg, where she meets Countess Vronsky, Count Alexei Vronsky's mother. As Anna and Vronsky are introduced on the platform, they are witnesses to an accident; an unfortunate man is crushed by the train.

Meanwhile, at Prince Shcherbatsky's house, Levin is proposing to Kitty, but she rejects him in favour of Vronsky, whom she loves. A ball is held that evening, at which Anna and Vronsky dance exclusively with each other. Vronsky is unable to hide his admiration of Anna, and Kitty, who had been expecting a proposal from him, is heartbroken. Anna, haunted by thoughts of Vronsky, returns to St. Petersburg as soon as possible, hoping to put the ball behind her. But Vronsky is on the same train, and during the journey, he confesses his love to Anna.

At the St. Petersburg Station, Anna is met by her husband, Alexei Karenin, and their son, Seryozha. The sight of her beloved son restores Anna to her normal life, and she tries once more to forget about Vronsky. While Anna is at one of the salons of her friend Princess Betsy Tverskaya, she meets Vronsky again. His advances become increasingly insistent, and finally Anna accepts them. Her husband, puzzled by her behaviour, warns her not to do anything rash, or anything that will break his beloved rules of morality, but Anna pretends she doesn't understand. Meanwhile, Vronsky is tormented by a vision of the man crushed to death at the railway station, followed by seemingly unconnected visions of Anna. After a while, Anna appears in person, and Act I finishes.

Act II begins at the races at Krasnoe Solo. When Vronsky's horse falls, Anna cannot control her emotions, and admits to her husband that she loves Vronsky. Karenin doesn't like society gossip and leaves the races with Anna, demanding that outward appearances be kept up. After a short while, unable to escape her marriage in a time which looked down on divorce, Anna becomes seriously ill. On the verge of death, she asks for her husband's forgiveness and receives it, but on becoming well she learns from Betsy Tverskaya that Vronsky has tried to commit suicide. She leaves her husband and son behind to go to Italy with Vronsky.

Diana Vishneva and Yuri Smekalov, Mariinsky

However, Anna soon desperately misses her son. She returns to Russia and secretly enters Karenin's house to see Seryozha, but her husband drives her away. Despaired by her seperation from her son, Anna goes to the opera, where she is shunned by Karenin's circle of high society friends. Utterly heartbroken and humiliated, she can see no way out of her situation. She throws herself under a train, thus bringing the ballet full circle.

A 2005 version of the ballet by Boris Eifman generally failed to impress, and Anna Karenina was reminagined in 2010 by Alexei Ratmansky for the Mariinsky Ballet to music by Rodion Shchedrin, and has since been performed by many companies, mostly located in Russia. The ballet is a favourite travelling piece of the Mariinsky Ballet, who most recently performed it earlier this year as part of their tour to London.

Here's Ulyana Lopatkina in Ratmansky's ballet at the Mariinsky:

And Diana Vishneva:

Thanks for reading!

- Selene

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