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Anastasia - November 2016


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Hi

 

I know that it is a bit early, but I just thought I would start a discussion about Anastasia as I think that this is somewhat of a controversial ballet in the RB rep.

 

It would be very interesting to hear people's opinions of the ballet itself and whether they think that it should be pruned to just the third act or whether the first two acts places the 3rd into context.  Also do you think that this is a relevant ballet today given that we now know that Anna Anderson was not what she claimed she was.

 

Did anybody see Lynn Seymour in the role and if so what were your impressions of her. Does she cast a shadow over future interpreters of Anastasia/Anna Anderson.

Edited by CHazell2
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I found Anastasia fascinating evening in the theatre when I saw the new production of this in ?1996 and the ?2004 revival, not only for the riveting third act but for, in particular, the dream like evocation of the Romanov world in Act One (the Revolutionaries' entrance at the end of Act Two didn't seem to work though).

 

I don't think that the proof that Anna Anderson wasn't Anastasia discredits the ballet. It's not a history ballet in the sense of a true narrative, and its themes of identity, memory and wish fulfilment have a resonance beyond the literally historic.

 

I didn't see Seymour but remember Leanne Benjamin, Mara Galeazzi and, in particular, Sarah Wildor as being a bewildering fascination of child early on and tragic woman clutching at anything to give her a sense of who she might be.

 

It will be interesting to see who is cast this time: Lauren Cuthbertson, Laura Morera and Natalia Osipova might seem obvious but I wouldn't be surprised if something unexpected is thrown into the mix.

 

I'm pleased to see it coming back. The designs are wonderful, the scenario intriguing, there's some beautiful choreography and the scores are wonderful - of course, the Tchaikovsky is beautiful but Martinu is one if my favourite composers and the hair raising sororities of the Sixth Symphony are perfectly attuned to the situation.

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I found Anastasia fascinating evening in the theatre when I saw the new production of this in ?1996 and the ?2004 revival, not only for the riveting third act but for, in particular, the dream like evocation of the Romanov world in Act One (the Revolutionaries' entrance at the end of Act Two didn't seem to work though).

 

I don't think that the proof that Anna Anderson wasn't Anastasia discredits the ballet. It's not a history ballet in the sense of a true narrative, and its themes of identity, memory and wish fulfilment have a resonance beyond the literally historic.

 

I didn't see Seymour but remember Leanne Benjamin, Mara Galeazzi and, in particular, Sarah Wildor as being a bewildering fascination of child early on and tragic woman clutching at anything to give her a sense of who she might be.

 

It will be interesting to see who is cast this time: Lauren Cuthbertson, Laura Morera and Natalia Osipova might seem obvious but I wouldn't be surprised if something unexpected is thrown into the mix.

 

I'm pleased to see it coming back. The designs are wonderful, the scenario intriguing, there's some beautiful choreography and the scores are wonderful - of course, the Tchaikovsky is beautiful but Martinu is one if my favourite composers and the hair raising sororities of the Sixth Symphony are perfectly attuned to the situation.

 

I am looking forward to seeing it too - I remember seeing it in 2004 and the third act just simply blowing me away. I think that the ballet holds up very well if we bear in mind that the whole ballet is taking place in Anna's imagination. A theory of mine is that Anna Anderson dances with the real Anastasia in the third Act and that the real Grand Duchess gives Anna her blessing to keep her story alive.

Edited by CHazell2
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of course, the Tchaikovsky is beautiful but Martinu is one if my favourite composers and the hair raising sororities of the Sixth Symphony are perfectly attuned to the situation.

 

You mean like Phi Beta Kappa? :)

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But seriously, the reason why I was clamouring for Anastasia to return for so long was because I wanted to see Leanne Benjamin, Mara Galeazzi and especially Tamara Rojo in the role - not to mention Ed Watson dancing the Husband properly, not just the cut-down role we had last time around.  So yes, I'd have been perfectly happy with the third act only.  But of course, it's too late now for those Anastasias - and also, if we're to have new ones, and possibly some junior ones, then I think I'd probably prefer to see the whole thing, as in a way I think it may put less pressure on for a dancer to have a sort of "run-up" to Act III rather than approaching it cold.

 

Other casting considerations which have to be thought about include the fact that Anastasia needs to be relatively small, in that she's supposed to be the youngest of 4 girls: that may limit options, as may having to cast a ballerina (plus partner) as Kschessinska, which is a difficult role to pull off - it must be a bit like Mayerling's Mitzi Caspar, in that you're on stage for only a relatively short time, but need to be able to create a convincing character as well as cope with the technical demands.

 

I can also see options to try out some younger up-and-coming dancers as the officers: while the tendency in the past revivals which I've seen has been to cast the first Officer as Anna's Husband as well, that doesn't have to be the case (and indeed, I always found it confusing to have the same dancer dance both).

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Here are some more comments on Anastasia, which I've copied over from the RB 16-17 season thread, where we seem to have some discussion running in parallel, unfortunately:

 

 

As far as the first booking period is concerned I should have thought that it would not be unreasonable to expect to see some new casts in Fille and that the dancers that we might all like to see making their debuts as Lise are likely to be the same dancers that Lady M will want to play Anastasia, in a major revival of that work. What you think of MacMillan's Anastasia is very dependent on getting the casting of the main role absolutely right. Get it right and it can seen a strong, if flawed work, get it wrong and it can seem like a waste of good dancers. At the moment management are probably more concerned with tomorrow night's premiere than anything else, but when they have got that out of the way, they will be thinking not only of who should dance Anastasia but who to cast in the big classical pas de deux  for Mathilde  Kchessinskaya and partner created on Sibley and Dowell which is incredibly challenging technically.

 

 

 

I quite agree with you regarding Anastasia - it is one of my favourite ballets, I saw it with Leanne Benjamin when it was last revived in 2004 - However the main role must be a strong dance-actress to make the powerful Act 3 resonant. She must be able to make you feel some sympathy and compassion for Anna Anderson - regardless of how you regard her life in general.

 

 

I want to see Osipova as Anastasia, if she isn't cast I probably won't bother to go.  The new designs robbed the work of the intrinsically Russian feel that was so prevalent in the original production.  The middle act was made absurd with clattering jewellery that could be heard above the music, it isn't just the discovery that Anna Anderson was a fraud (did anyone seriously think she wasn't?) that diminishes the work and in a way I wish it would be quietly dropped.  On the other hand two Tchaikovsky symphonies are a rare treat.  In Russia I expect Gergiev would conduct if the ballet were ever danced in St Petes. but my fantasy of Pappano stepping up to the rostrum is unlikely to be fulfilled.

 

Last time around I loved Leanne Benjamin in the title role, she was able to reconcile the two disparate parts of the ballet better than anyone since Seymour but the classical pas de deux was farcical compared to the originals.  The main roles are a big ask and although I can imagine a first cast led by Osipova I can't visualize a second cast at all.

 

 

I can see where you are coming from, MAB. I think that Miss Osipova would be smashing in the role - she is a great actress as well as a dancer.

 

The ballet can be seen as a historical curiosity now that we know that Anna Anderson was a fraud. But when the ballet was first produced - the situation was a bit more complicated. I think that people wanted to believe that Anastasia had survived the shooting and many people were prepared to be convinced by Anna Anderson. I think that the 3rd Act, whilst powerful in its own right - needed the two other acts to put it into context. However it might be said that the first two acts are not based on the real Romanovs, they could be simply the products of Anna's imagination. 

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I saw Anastasia in 1971 and I have not been tempted to see it again.

I sometimes change my mind about a ballet as I did with The Winter's Tale but that does not happen often.  

 

I gave David Nixon's Swan Lake a second chance after vowing in 2004 not to go near it again but my view had not changed.  I did the same for 1984 thinking that I had been spoilt by the brilliance of the opening night of the Dutch National Ballet season with much the same result.  

I have to stress that I have never disliked any ballet.   All the ones I have mentioned have their good points which in Anastasia's case was the score.  I believe I was also impressed with MacMillan's choreography.  I think it must have been the story that I didn't like because even in the days before DNA forensics Anna Anderson's claims seemed so improbable.   

 

Taste is subjective and each of the ballets I have listed have their aficionados whose tastes and opinions I respect.   The thing is that life is short and I have neither the time nor the money to see everything I want to see.   I am not going to spend the little of each that I do have on ballets that I like less than others.

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I saw Lynn Seymour in Anastasia back in the 80s.  I also saw her do just Act 3 as part of a triple bill at LFB as it still was then.  She was amazing and indeed I can't imagine anyone else coming up to her level of sheer drama, terror, emotion and all round psychological interpretation.  It is one of those performances I have never forgotten.  I did see the revival at the RB a few years ago, but sadly I can't remember who danced the lead role when I went.  I think it might have been Mara but would have to dig out my programme to be sure.  What I do remember is not liking the full ballet.  However, I will give it another go as it is many years hence so am willing to try again.

 

As for casting, I can imagine Laura Morera as Anastasia.  She is such a great MacMillan dancer and actress and I think she would get it just right.  From the younger crop, I am imagining Yasmine Naghdi in the role. 

 

How about Lauren or Marianela for Kchessinskaya, partnered by Vadim? 

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I saw the glorious Trinidad Sevillano dance act 3 with LFB in the 1980s. IMHO she was a match for Lynn Seymour and she can't have been more than 21. She had the most expressive back I have ever seen.

 

 

(BTW, I love David Nixon's Swan Lake and have done since its premiere. I just keep going back for more and am really sad the current run has ended. I have seen more in 1984 every time I have seen that too.)

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.  

 

I gave David Nixon's Swan Lake a second chance after vowing in 2004 not to go near it again but my view had not changed.  I did the same for 1984 thinking that I had been spoilt by the brilliance of the opening night of the Dutch National Ballet season with much the same result.  

 

 

 

I agree that taste is very subjective and I think that life would be dull if we all agreed. Why didn't you like David Nixon's Swan Lake?

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I saw the glorious Trinidad Sevillano dance act 3 with LFB in the 1980s. IMHO she was a match for Lynn Seymour and she can't have been more than 21. She had the most expressive back I have ever seen.

 

 

(BTW, I love David Nixon's Swan Lake and have done since its premiere. I just keep going back for more and am really sad the current run has ended. I have seen more in 1984 every time I have seen that too.)

 

I wanted to see it when it was on in Norwich but sadly never got around to it. What did you like about it?

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I saw Lynn Seymour in Anastasia back in the 80s.  I also saw her do just Act 3 as part of a triple bill at LFB as it still was then.  She was amazing and indeed I can't imagine anyone else coming up to her level of sheer drama, terror, emotion and all round psychological interpretation.  It is one of those performances I have never forgotten.  I did see the revival at the RB a few years ago, but sadly I can't remember who danced the lead role when I went.  I think it might have been Mara but would have to dig out my programme to be sure.  What I do remember is not liking the full ballet.  However, I will give it another go as it is many years hence so am willing to try again.

 

 

 

Wow, that must have been a wonderful evening, Miss Seymour must have been really on fire that evening.

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I wanted to see it when it was on in Norwich but sadly never got around to it. What did you like about it?

 

 

 

I waxed lyrical on this thread:  http://www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/topic/11926-northern-ballet-swan-lake-spring-tour-2016/?hl=%2Bnorthern+%2Bballet

 

It's absolutely not a traditional Swan Lake but there is an interesting love triangle and the set and costumes are sublime.  As I said on the linked thread, this production fits the current Northern Ballet roster like a glove.  The prologue, which was changed last time around in 2010, now gives much more substance to the scenario.

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I know I have seen Anastasia, and I think I must have seen Tamara in the role (?)  I can't remember that much about it, though.

 

However, from the bit I can remember, I just cannot see Cuthbertson performing it.  Has she done it before? 

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I know I have seen Anastasia, and I think I must have seen Tamara in the role (?)  I can't remember that much about it, though.

 

However, from the bit I can remember, I just cannot see Cuthbertson performing it.  Has she done it before? 

 

Neither Rojo nor Cuthbertson have danced Anastasia. The last run featured Benjamin, Galeazzi and Revie and the one before that had Durante, Wildor and Benjamin in the main role, I believe.

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I was just thinking: having seen the casting now of Osipova, Cuthbertson and Morera, Cuthbertson at least is relatively tall. Is there any precedent for casting Act-I Anastasia differently from the other two acts to indicate time passing, or am I just thinking of Mary Vetsera in Mayerling?

 

Casting here: http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/anastasia-by-kenneth-macmillan

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Further to my post above saying the Morera would be fab in Anastasia, she has been cast! Am very happy about this. And I also second the idea of giving her Mary Vetsera....how it hasn't happened yet I just don't understand.

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Further to my post above saying the Morera would be fab in Anastasia, she has been cast! Am very happy about this. And I also second the idea of giving her Mary Vetsera....how it hasn't happened yet I just don't understand.

Happily, she seems to be on a roll at the moment vis a vis castings. And not before time!

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Alison. The same dancer plays Anastasia throughout the ballet. I don't think that height is the deciding factor in selecting dancers to cast as Anastasia. According to Seymour two of her older sisters in the original three act version were not only shorter than her but also younger than her. She said that she came up with the idea of the sailor suit to emphasise her youth .As I have said Anastasia is a mixed bag and really does depend on the casting of Anastasia for its success or failure. What matters is selecting a dancer who can portray the fourteen year old of the first two acts and the woman in the asylum.The current act 3 was the first part to be created by MacMillan when he was director at Deutsche Oper. When he came back to London to direct the Royal Ballet he expanded the work by adding acts 1( the family) and 2 (the court) and in doing so he created a" grand company ballet " .The only two dancers who I think have been equal to the task of portraying Anastasia have been Lynn Seymour and Leanne Benjamin.

 

For me Lynn Seymour still casts a long shadow over every dancer who has inherited roles in which she appeared as well as those created on her. She was simply the best dance actress the company has had. The only other dancer who I think was equal to her in dramatic roles was Marcia Haydee who London audiences saw a lot of as the Stuttgart Ballet were fairly regular visitors to London for a time in the 1970's. When they danced dramatic roles you scarcely noticed that they were dancing their performances were so expressive. I thought that I felt like that about Seymour's performances because I was merely a member of the audience but David Wall said the same thing about her.

 

As to whether the original one act version is better than the three act one Arlene Croce certainly thought so. She said something to the effect that MacMillan had pushed the boundaries of ballet with the original version but that when he turned it into a three act work he retreated from innovation into ballet material that was standard and safe. I think that which ever version is staged without a great Anastasia it is a complete waste of time as it needs a convincing and compelling dance actress. I am not sure that Rojo would have made a good Anastasia. I think that on DVD she spoils the effect of Ashton's Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan by being self consciously the great actress rather than getting on with the dances. Seymour on Youtube gives the impression of  spontaneity much as I suspect Duncan did. I think that the same self consciousness would have crept into Rojo's portrayal of Anastasia much as, for me at least, being a great technician sometimes gets in the way of her portrayal of Odette/ Odile and other classical roles. It is all artifice I know but there is artifice which, however carefully observed by the performer, creates an illusion of a form of theatrical reality for the audience  and artifice which remains artifice. It may be terribly well done but it never creates the mood and emotional impact intended by the choreographer as it remains resolutely a self conscious performance where the audience is aware of the performer watching him or herself.

 

 

The advertised casts are interesting but not surprising. The casting of the classical pas de deux is, perhaps, an indication of who the company's next classical ballerina is thought to be. For the dancer portraying Mathilde  it isn't simply a question of creating a character and dancing a showy pas de deux. The actual pas de deux was created on Sibley and Dowell when they were at the height of their powers . It is technically demanding and it is difficult to make it look simple and straightforward which is how it should appear to the audience.Should we assume that management is moving towards the idea of partnerships for the younger dancers or is Takada a pragmatic choice of partner if Hay is to be cast in this sort of role?

 

Edited by FLOSS
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The only two dancers who I think have been equal to the task of portraying Anastasia have been Lynn Seymour and Leanne Benjamin.

You don't want to add Viviana Durante to that short list?

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Geoff. No I don't want to add Durante to my list.  As far as I am concerned a limited number of dancers have made the ballet work for me but Durante is not one of them. I may go to see all of the casts appearing in this revival because there are interesting elements in all of them. The last revival was some years ago and much has changed in the company since then. The ballet is a flawed work rather than a blistering masterpiece and it needs a cast that can divert attention from its weaknesses. It will. be interesting to see who, if anyone, manages to do just that.

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I agree that taste is very subjective and I think that life would be dull if we all agreed. Why didn't you like David Nixon's Swan Lake?

 

I apologize for not responding sooner but I have been busy with other matters.

 

As this thread is primarily a discussion of Anastasia I do not wish to divert it to a discussion of another work.

 

I expressed my views on Nixon's in Don't Expect Petipa on 5 Jan 2016 and Up the Swannee on 17 March 2016 both of which are in my blog.  If you want to discuss Nixon's Swan Lake we could do so there. Alternatively there is a thread on Nixon's work on this website.

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I apologize for not responding sooner but I have been busy with other matters.

 

As this thread is primarily a discussion of Anastasia I do not wish to divert it to a discussion of another work.

 

I expressed my views on Nixon's in Don't Expect Petipa on 5 Jan 2016 and Up the Swannee on 17 March 2016 both of which are in my blog.  If you want to discuss Nixon's Swan Lake we could do so there. Alternatively there is a thread on Nixon's work on this website.

 

Thank you for your reply and I am sorry to have not responded before now. I hope that we can have many a stimulating discussion on here in the future. Whilst I am an avid ballet lover, I am afraid I am totally a novice when it comes to evaluating various productions - so I am hoping to learn on here.

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