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Full Length 'Anastasia'

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With Jeannie's move to Saint Petersburg and her detailed descriptions of the beautiful theatres and palaces, many memories are revived of my trip to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, a few years ago.

After reading Jeannie's post about the Hermitage Museum Theatre in the Winter Palace, I decided to look through a particular book and find a picture of it.

While flipping the pages and passing by beautiful images of Russia's last Imperial Family, I was reminded that there is a full length ballet about the youngest daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, Anastasia.

I've never seen 'Anastasia' and have read just a little bit about it. I know that it was originally created by Sir Kenneth MacMillan as a one act ballet for Lynn Seymour, and that it was so striking it was expanded into a full length.

Are there Ballet Alert posters who saw 'Anastasia'?

Any memories or stories to share with the rest of us?

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I'm writing this on the run, but, in brief, I think it was a stinker :) It was revived a few years ago to no great acclaim.

The one-act, a very expressionistic work, was considered very strong, and when MacMillan took over the Royal he added two acts to make a full-length. From what I've read, that was not considered a good decision.

Didn't ABT revive this a few seasons ago? Or am I dreaming that?

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ABT did present the 1996 Royal Ballet version 2/3 years ago.

I'll have to disagree on your recollections of the ballet, as a whole. I attended the May 1996 premiere-week of the Royal's most recent version & it was an enormous hit with public & almost all the critics. Viviana Durante (the opening-night Anastasia) was cheered to the rafters & praised to the hilt in newspapers (Clement Crisp et. al.). Leanne Benjamin & Sarah Wildor were also heavenly, in 2nd & 3rd casts, a few days later. I remember nothing but enthusiastic, cheering audiences. HUGE standing ovation on opening night for Durante. I still have hard copies of all the newspaper reviews & the production was a huge success, AT.

Hence, you can imagine my surprise & shock when, a few years later, I saw a palid performance by ABT...utilizing the 1996-London sets & costumes, which are stunning for Acts I & II, IMO. The energy of the various London/RB casts simply wasn't there. And the ABT dancers seemed to be going through the motions, almost as if in mockery. Sorry - that's the way I saw it.

With appropriate cast & 'degree of respect' among corps -- as in London 1996 -- McMillan's 'Anastasia' can be a joy to behold. It could be spectacular in the hands of the Kirov, I believe. Petersburg audiences would love it, due to music, melodrama, Romanov theme, stunning Act I/II sets/costumes, etc, etc.

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I saw it with the original cast, many years ago. It was one of the first ballets I saw, and other than being bowled over by Beriosova as the Tsarina, it was pretty bad--apparently is was roundly booed at the premiere. Yards and yards of incredibly dull padding in the first 2 acts, and no real connection between the first two acts and the 3rd act, which was effective in a modernistic way, though I was put off by the idea of using real films of murder as scenic decoration. Durante danced in the ABT production, so it wasn't just the cast that killed the American production, it was the ballet. I heard that it was referred to back stage as both Anasthesia and Euthenasia.

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Perhaps we read different reviews, but I the ones I read (of the ballet when it was new) were of the "nice third act, but the rest is filler" variety. They may have liked some of the dancers, but not the ballet, I thought. If it had been a huge box office hit, it's odd it hasn't remained in repertory.

Croce supported the ballet when it was first done, and made it clear that she was arguing from a contrarian point of view -- she was a MacMillan supporter in the early 1970s and wrote that maybe it was a failed experiment, but at least it was an experiment, he was trying to do something different with the three-act form. (This was in the context that "Manon" was a retrenchment, a retreat from the failure of "Anastasia" and a much more conservative "traditional" three-act.

Perhaps some of our London readers -- or Mary, who was in London at the time of the premiere -- can put this in context?

Editing -- sorry, Mary. We were posting at the sames time!

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I can't speak for 1970, as I did not attend/see it, but -- yes -- the reviews at that time were awful.

Part of the critical success of the May 1996 revised version was the excission of the 'fluff' in Acts I & II by the stager, Lady McMillan (widow of the choreographer).

I did not see Durante in the ABT version. I saw Julie Kent. Totally off. But the corps truly resembled 'jokers' compared to the Royals.

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I saw the full-length version when it was new and thought the first 2 acts were pure padding, adding nothing to the Anastasia we saw in the third act. I still think that act stands well on its own, given someone of sufficient dramatic skill in the central role.

I didn't go to the last RB revival, not even to see Sarah Wildor; but one interesting thing is that had MacMillan lived, he was planning to expand Rasputin's role for Mukhamedov - which really might have been worth seeing.

(I wouldn't say it was 'roundly' booed at the premiere, Mary - just booed!)

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