Anna’s conviction that she was Anastasia - the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, who had been murdered with her family by the Bolsheviks in 1918 – sparked one of the greatest mysteries of the twentieth century.
As the Imperial family had been executed at the height of the Russian Revolution, the appearance of this young woman – apparently a surviving royal princess who was afflicted with amnesia – divided the public. Many wanted to forget the massacre and the uprising and waged war on Anna as nothing but an impostor. Still, others believed - or hoped - that a princess really could have survived as a remnant of the old world.
This real life mystery, rooted in one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century, was bound to appeal to choreographer Kenneth MacMillan; and he first choreographed it as a one-act production for Deutsche Oper Ballet, where he was Director, in 1967. Upon his appointment as Director of The Royal Ballet in 1970, MacMillan choreographed two additional acts to precede the earlier one.
The Royal Ballet first performed the full-length piece at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1971, starring that incomparable dance-actress Lynn Seymour.
Lynne Seymour in Macmillan's Anastasia, 1971
The ballet was further revised and restaged in 1996.
This season, former Royal Ballet Principal Viviana Durante, who danced the eponymous character in 1996, returns to coach a new generation of interpreters in the psychologically challenging role.
The first two acts of this landmark ballet showcase classical, Royal Ballet tradition. Set to music by Tchaikovsky, MacMillan explores Anna’s ‘memory’ of events in the Imperial family preceding the Russian Revolution.
This provides a potent context for the final act, which sees the disturbed Anna visited by confused nightmares representing phases of her life. German expressionism – a less conventional, freer movement style which was rather baffling to British audiences when the ballet premiered – dominates in this final haunting section, choreographed to Martinů’s Sixth Symphony.
The real-life Anna’s claim to be Anastasia was finally proven false by posthumous DNA evidence in the 1990s but her intriguing story lives on in this ballet, which remains one of MacMillan’s most experimental and poignant works.
Anastasia will be screened in cinemas worldwide on Wednesday 2 November 2016, as part of the Royal Opera House Live Cinema season.
|What||The Royal Ballet: Anastasia, Macmillan|
Royal Opera House
Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
26 Oct 16 – 12 Nov 16, Sat mat. 13:30; Sat eve. 1900
|Website||click here to book via the ROH website|