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Is anyone planning to go to see this? I'm going on 29th to see Mara Galeazzi with Federico Bonnelli-though I am still a bit dubious about this ballet as a whole.I'm not convinced about the plot structure, especially Act 3. But I have never seen it so I will reserve judgement until later :)

I know its the Insight Evening tonight-I wish I was going as they are so helpful for explaining the thinking behind the ballets, but am stuck in doing essays. If anyone goes and discovers anything useful, let us know! xx

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Rebekah, you are quite right to be unconvinced about the plot structure of this ballet. Two Tchaikovsky symphonies, a large chunk of Martinu and an electronic score don't make easy bedfellows in my opinion and the visual attractiveness of the first two acts was destroyed when the original sets were jettisoned for new designs at the last revival.

The first act, which used to have beautiful designs evocative of the Russian countryside, certainly conjured up a sense of time and place as the imperial family relax with one another before the onset of the First World War. The second act is set in a ballroom with reality breaking in (literally) when the red army storms the palace. The final act is totally at odds with the previous two and shows the imaginary life of a woman who tried to pass herself off as Anastasia and her incarceration in an asylum.

The choreography is mainly uninspired with characters called "three army officers", "four army officers" etc. and much pointless marching around. There is a real showcase pas de deux in the second act for the ballerina actually named as Kschessinskaya (in real life the sexual plaything of the imperial family) which is ideal for preserving as a separate gala showstopper. The central role of Anastasia is difficult to cast, as she has to make her entrance as a twelve year old on roller skates. Lynn Seymour was wonderful in the role and in the most recent revival Leanne Benjamin was also very good.

If I go it will be to listen to the two rarely performed Tchaikovsky symphonies (1st & 3rd) and to watch the second act pas de deux. The last act, with its remote controlled hospital bed comes as a dreadful anti climax.

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Jane-what changes have been made to Rasputin's role? Do you mean recently?

I think I'll have to go to watch this with an extremely open mind-especialyl regarding the 'electronic' score. I'll bear in mind seeing the third act as a separate piece too. Thanks xx

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Apparently MacMillan told people that he planned to expand Rasputin's role for Mukhamedov - only he died before he got round to doing it. So for this revival someone (presumably Deborah MacMillan + Monica Mason + ?) has done it, using what MM described, I think, as 'existing steps and existing music'.

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The last act - to the Martinu score - was choreographed first. It was done when MacMillan was in Berlin, and somewhere there is a film of it (at the time), as a friend of mine was then in the corps of the Berlin Ballet and appears as an asylum "nurse". Interesting point to look for: there is a step where Anastasia holds her hands, one in front of the other, close to her face and moves the front hand back and forward rapidly. It's there because MacMillan asked Monica Parker, his notator, what movements she would have trouble notating, and her answer was "small movements in front of the face." Naturally, she solved the notation problem! The first two acts, to the Tchaikovsky scores, were added for the London production. Yes, there IS an awful lot of marching around by "officers" - who at least USED to wear white jackets and so got nicknamed the "waiters". There's also a moment in Act I where they jump into a "lake" from a "diving board".

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Well I went last night, and really enjoyed it! The cast were as follows:

Tsar Nicholas II-William Tukett (replacing Christopher Saunders)

Tsarina Alexandra-Zenaida Yanowsky (replacing Elizabeth McGorian)

Grand Duchess Anastasia- MaraGaleazzi (replacing Tamara Rojo)

Rasputin- Thaigo Soares (replacing Jonathan Cope)

Mathilde Kschessinska-Jaimie Tapper (replacing Mara Galeazzi)

Her partner- Federico Bonelli (replacing Inaki Urlezega)

Anna Anderson's husband- Thomas Whitehead

I went to watch this prepared to be disappointed and I'm so glad I wasn't! Though I think the structure of Acts 1 and 2 makes the ballet feel a bit odd-as there is little in the way of plot development it feels a bit static. But then in Act 3 you really appreciate how you were watching a snapshot of Anastasia's home life. This means that you are familiar with the people (her sisters, Rasputin etc) when they turn up as Anna Andersons delusions in Act 3.

I was impressed with Mara's ability to contrast Anastasia and Anna Anderson so completely, and there was genuine love for her family.

I found Rasputin a strange character-especially in Act 3 (I don't know if this is where his extra steps are, he doesn't do much before then) because I didn't understand why he was 'haunting' Anastasia, when he was obviously keen on the Tsarina. Despite this, Thiago did an excellent job-he was brooding, and sinister, as well as having great power.

Jamie Tapper and Federico Bonelli we also very good as Mathilde Kschessinska, but I didn't like their piece very much-maybe because tutus seems too classical for Macmillan-it felt a bit jarring.

I also thought Zenaida Yanowsky was superb as the Tsarina-though I'm biased as I think she is fab in most things :( She can carry off regal and proud so well.

On the whole though, I think I prefer Act 3, maybe because I like more narrative based ballets, and I would happily watch Act 3 on its own, which I suppose was Macmillan's original intention anyway. I think I am going to have to buy a book about the Romanovs though,a shte programme notes were too brief.

What did anyone else think? And can anyone explain why Rasputin haunts Anna/Anastasia so much in Act 3? Thanks xx

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Haven't seen the ballet but was obessed by the story of Anastasia as a teenager and here's what I remember. The Tsarina was desperate for anyone to help the Tsarvich Nikolai who was a hemophiliac. Rasputin apparently was a comfort to her but most of the rest of the family and the Russian court hated him. Apparently he was truly sinister.

Perhpas McMillan, is trying to portray him as an "evil force" whose wickedness haunted the whole family.

A good book to start with is Robert Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra.

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Robert K. Massie states that the four Grand Duchesses were quite cloistered at Tsarskoe Selo. It is known that the Olga, Titianna, Maria and Anastasia wore Rasputin's image on their necklaces. It is believed that to the Imperial Family believed he was the holiest of men.

We know that Nicholas and Alexandra were aware of St. Petersburg society's hatred for Grigory Effimovitch Rasputin. Pavel, a son of the Tsar's uncle, took a leading role in the mad monk's murder. This must have been quite a shock to the young Anastasia, who might have been unaware of any hatred towards the Imperial Family until that point.

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Rasputin's powers of healing appear to have been quite genuine, but away from the Royal family he led a totally dissolute life. The authorities though were not fooled by his holy image and he was under constant surveillance from the secret police.

His eventual death was at the hands of wealthy Felix Yusupov who first poisoned, then shot and eventually drowned him. He was almost impossible to kill.

Earlier he had predicted that if he was killed the Romanov dynasty would fall. He was. It did.

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I actually got that wrong, it was Pavel's son Dimitry, a favorite of Nicholas and Alexandra who along with Felix Yusupov and others murdered Rasputin.

I think Zenaida Yanowsky must be quite perfect as Alexandra Feodorovna. She comes close in coloring and her carriage is quite regal. Though I have only seen pictures of Svetlana Beriosova, I see a resemblance between she and Yanowsky.

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I had to reply... I too know much about Anastasia. She and her three sisters had a brother, Alexei. Alexei was a hemophiliac as a result of Tsarina Alexandras relation to Queen Victoria of England. Rasputin, was called Father Grigory by the imperial family, and he was able to comfort Alexei when he was in pain. He had predicted to the tsarina that when he died, she would lose her son and crown in 6 months. This eerie prediction came true. She lost her crown, and the whole family was executed, though ANastasia's story persists.

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