The Royal Ballet is providing audiences with a wonderfully wide range of works in its current selection of online performances, and this next production – Kenneth MacMillan’s Anastasia – demonstrates just how diverse the Company’s repertoire is.
Anastasia brings to the stage of the Royal Opera House the story of Anna Anderson, a psychiatric patient in an institution in Berlin during the 1920s, who was convinced that she was the only survivor of the appalling massacre of the Imperial Russian family by the Bolsheviks in Ekaterinburg in 1918. She suffered vivid nightmares, fact and fantasy swirling around in her mind, as she recalled events from her previous life.
This case had a powerful effect on Kenneth MacMillan, and in 1967 he created a one-act work, Anastasia, for Deutsche Opera Ballet in Berlin, of which he was Director at the time. He set this ballet to the Sixth Symphony of Bohuslav Martinů, an appropriate choice, since when he wrote the symphony, the composer was himself struggling to come to terms with the confusion caused by a serious head injury sustained several years earlier.
Returning to The Royal Ballet in 1971, MacMillan created a full-length version of Anastasia for the Company, choreographing two new acts to precede the existing one. Since these acts recounted episodes of what Anna believed to be her past – as the Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of the last Tsar, Nicholas II of Russia – MacMillan set them to music from the First and Third symphonies (Winter Dreams and the Polish) by Tchaikovsky, who must surely be the composer most closely identified with the grandeur of Imperial Russia. Additional music was composed by Fritz Winckel, with electronic music by Rüdiger Rüfer.
In the ballet, MacMillan makes no claim with regard to the veracity of Anna’s belief as to whom she is, leaving that decision to his audience, but he never wavered from his view that her story was poignant and powerful, and what comes through very clearly in the ballet is Anna Anderson’s absolute certainty of her origins. She died in 1984, and it wasn’t until 1994 that the result of a DNA test proved that she couldn’t have been a member of the Romanov family.
The role of Anastasia in this performance is danced by Royal Ballet Principal, Natalia Osipova, who has performed a vast number of roles with the Company, had numerous roles created on her, and has appeared as a guest artist with many leading ballet companies around the world. Among the awards with which Ms Osipova has been honoured are two Golden Masks – for her performances in In the Upper Room (2008) and La Sylphide (2009) – three Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards (Best Female Dancer, 2007, 2010 and 2014), two Positano Dance Awards (Best Female Dancer, 2008 and 2011) and a Benois de la Danse Award (Best Female Dancer, 2008).
Anastasia was dedicated to Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of The Royal Ballet.
The Royal Ballet’s online premiere of Kenneth Macmillan’s Anastasia is broadcast free on Friday 15th May at 7.00 pm BST – part of the Royal Opera House’s #OurHouseToYourHouse series – on Facebook and YouTube. Anastasia will be available to view online until 28th May.
Find out more on the Royal Opera House website.
Information sourced from:
The Royal Ballet programme notes
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