A devastating passion: Milan ballet brings famed story of Anna Karenina to Cairo

Névine Lameï, Friday 31 Jan 2020

Inspired by Tolstoy’s famous novel, the ballet Anna Karenina was staged at the Cairo Opera House on three nights last week

Milan ballet

Attending a show by the prestigious Milan Ballet is not a regular occurrence for Cairo's audiences. The troupe is renowned for its vast repertoire of neoclassical and contemporary productions, and the company is also considered an ambassador of Italian dance around the world, given the quality of its shows, which are often hailed as extraordinary.

Last week, Cairo audiences were lucky enough to get an opportunity to see the troupe dance, as they performed the ballet Anna Karenina at the Cairo Opera House on 22, 23 and 24 January.

Anna Karenina is a moving ballet in two acts with modern choreography, based on the famed novel by Russia’s Leo Tolstoy. The ballet tells the powerful and irresistible story of Anna, who makes the choice to rebel against the hypocrisy of society. While doing so she lets her passions lead her.

Anna is a young married woman and the mother of a young boy. When alighting from a train, she meets Count Vronsky and falls in love with this brilliant but frivolous officer. She fights against this passion but ends up abandoning herself to happiness, mixed with a sense of guilt.

Deeply depressed by her fault, Anna decides to confess her infidelity to her husband. Some time later, an unexpected meeting with Vronsky is enough to shatter her decision. She throws herself into the arms of her lover and they decide to flee abroad together.

Vronsky, however, becomes bored and regrets having abandoned his military career. Returning to Russia, Anna and Vronsky live on the margins of society. Anna cannot bear to have abandoned her child and betrayed her husband. In the grip of the most intense torments, she ends her life.

The careful staging and expressive force of the performers bring out the personal style of the Estonian choreographer and director, Teet Kask.

The choreography is infused with a contemporary sensibility, transforming a personal story into a grandiose fresco where duty and freedom are the main colours.

The story emphasises the game of passions between man and woman, their inner lives versus the lives visible to everyone, their happiness and their setbacks.

Kask said in the press release on Anna Karenina: "The goal is not to recreate Tolstoy's novel on stage. Tolstoy is a literary genius. I just wanted to express through dance what Tolstoy wrote between the lines. What interests me is the opportunity to put myself in the place of Anna and her various feelings and moods, to discover and understand her through my feelings. My choreography is focused on the character of Anna, drawn by the conflict between her needs as a person and the expectations of society, between her individuality unconditionally faithful to her love and the ignorance of society."

Kask tries, with his choreography, to explore the "neglected" aspects of Anna's figure through the language of dance. He translates the drama of a devastating love and passion onto stage.

Anna is ready for any sacrifice. She will try in vain to break social codes and norms and to confront a difficult choice, complex dilemmas, torn between her family, her social status and her freedom.

The ballet is a condensed choreographic work, which surprises with its precision and its magic.

Set to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the ballet uses projections of original drawings by Marco Triaca, which create atmospheres inspired by Russia at the close of the 19th century. 

*This article was originally published in Al Ahram Hebdo (22 January issue)

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