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Anna Karenina

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NationaltheaterMunich, Bavaria, Germany
October 03 18:00, October 04 19:30, October 06 18:00, October 12 19:30

Greta Garbo played her, so did Vivien Leigh and Keira Knightley to mention just a few of over twenty film adaptations in the last 100 years. Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, like Fontane’s Effi Briest, belongs to the tragic female characters of realist literature – 19th century novels where the protagonists duelled at dawn to uphold their honour or commit suicide. Women, particularly, chose the latter option when their despair grew too great or when society’s censure became too much.

Anna Karenina, too, is torn between convention and passion, duty and rebellion. Her fate inspired many choreographers to create remarkable works. Even Maja Plissezkaja created a choreography in 1972, set to Rodion Schtschedrin’s music – the leading role was taken up by the legendary ballerina herself. This was followed by classic and modern interpretations by Boris Eifman, Jochen Ulrich, Alexei Ratmansky and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

Christian Spuck’s adaptation premiered at the Zurich Ballet in 2014. He narrates the story of this 19th century adultery through pungent scenes and a mainly classical dance vocabulary, placing it in a traditional Russian context: birch forests and snow-covered expanses, the legendary balls of St. Petersburg aristocracy, alluring women in splendid gowns. The flip-side of this reflects the coldness of the palaces; the stage is very big and mostly empty. The characters are as lost in the empty scenery as they are lost in real life. Video projections point us towards the action, anticipating the looming tragedy. They symbolize the psychological process and inner turmoil of Anna Karenina. The story is conveyed directly through concrete and straightforward movements: the dancers argue and kiss, love and despair. None of the narrative elements are banal or simply illustrative. Rather, they merge with the physical style of the individual dancer which is retained in the pure dance elements, thus wordlessly communicating the piece's developments and changes. In terms of the work’s musical characterisation, Spuck gives Anna Karenina a voice through the medium of the piano, borrowing from piano works by Sergei Rachmaninov and Witold Lutoslawski in particular. He puts Rachmaninov’s High Romantic, dense sound, which often invites escapism, against the deeply unsettling music of the 20th Century, thereby revealing Anna Karenina’s inner thoughts and conflicts.

The Munich premiere is the first performance of a Christian Spuck creation at the Bayerisches Staatsballett and also the first performance of his Anna Karenina in Germany.

October 2019
Evening performance
Matinee performance
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