With ‘Anna Karenina,’ Joffrey opened a new tradition at the Auditorium – Chicago Tribune

As composer Ilya Demutsky’s glorious score under Maestro Scott Speck’s baton unfolded on Wednesday, smoke filled the Auditorium Theater and was projected onto a screen. the bottom covering the stage. It reminded me of the polar vortex – those images of steam floating just above the surface of Lake Michigan, or the Amtrak bars, where the workers set fire to the tracks. train to keep the engines moving in the bitter cold of February.

But it was the opening of “Anna Karenina,” a highly anticipated new production by the Joffrey Ballet, with Demutsky’s original score and moody sets, lighting and projections by an all-star cast. setting the stage for choreographer Yuri Possokhov’s latest. work master

There’s something exciting about being public for a global startup, especially one of this size. I’m thinking, going into an Auditorium cinema, that’s what it was like to be among the citizens of 19.th The century St. Petersburg, every year, the Imperial Russian Ballet opened a new work – things like “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty” – which have been preserved to this day.

At the same time, this is the time and place where “Anna Karenina,” based on Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel of the same name, is set. And that’s why history remembers Possokhov’s “Anna Karenina” among the canon of what will be considered one day, 21.St centuries old.

As in many of those classic ballets of old, the leading lady dies (See also: “Swan Lake,” “La Bayadere,” “Giselle” … do I have to go?), but she doesn’t. Anna is like the usual virgin heroines. . Anna born Joffrey ballerina Victoria Jaiani has a right to dance; She plays the role of a difficult woman, unhappy in her marriage to the influential politician Alexey Karenin, who is actually attracted to a young military man, Alexey Vronsky.

Finding her passion for Vronsky, Anna wants to “have her cake and eat it too,” dreaming of a world where they can live happily ever after. What she finds is an arrogant, jealous and loving man, in this way, better than Anna in the end. In her depression, Anna takes morphine and ends her depression, ending her life by throwing herself into an oncoming train.

The libretto, developed by Valeriy Pencheykin after Tolstoy’s story, follows closely with a plot line that will be recognizable to the audience of the book. And people who are familiar with the story will do better than those who go in blind, if only because of the speed of this ballet, which combines Tolstoy’s 800 pages in 13 scenes, in of only two hours.

But there’s no doubt that “Anna Karenina” is a show piece for the Joffrey, who deserve an original ballet to call their own. And Jaiani is not the only dancer cast here. The important Karenin, danced by Fabrice Calmels, is clearly torn between his love for Anna and a strong moral compass, not to mention his desire to occupy a position of power in the Russian parliament. Alberto Velazquez, as Vronsky, is more than a perfect partner for Jaiani; Although their love duts are important in this ballet, he emerged as a great leader after eight years a little under the radar of this company.

So is Yoshihisa Arai, a former Joffrey dancer who was given the role of a lifetime with Konstantin Levin. The humble farmer is the real hero of this story, accepting rejection and patiently waiting for the blithe and naif Kitty, danced by the always effervescent Anais Bueno.

Fortunately, we leave this ballet on a happy note, traveling from Anna’s dramatic ending to an idyllic Russian landscape where at least two of these characters live happily ever after. Arai’s singing for years is a cherry on top of a dance that really shines in his monologues. From Edson Barbosa’s portrayal of the watchman who reveals Anna’s death, to the end of the dance with Arai, the ballet truly shows the depth of Joffrey’s talent.

The group’s work is no less intense, especially the ballroom scene, where Anna and Vronsky begin to give in to each other. Tom Pye’s beautiful costumes are filled with costume and setting to a chosen stage as the corps de ballet glides each way across the stage. This group of socialites, who have some strange and strange moments walking on a light in the middle of the group or flying their clothes for no reason, also do to summer tourists at the racetrack and show hard work, fun. farmers in the decorative effect of the dance.

I only wish that the whole thing was extended – the change of the story and the scenes given as much time and indulgence as the development of Anna’s psyche and those long solos. Because the stage was not pitch black, the props and scenes were moved by supernumeraries dressed as train workers, or by the dancers themselves, straddling the lines in between of the stage and the background when the design moves. Perhaps this will help our minds a little – remembering that this is a drama gives us permission to combine imagination and reality, and abandons any role in the actual interpretation of the thought, like the racetrack where Anna humiliated Karenin by running. to his lover when he falls from his horse, for example. Instead of real horses, it’s an exercise dance for men, with horses’ hooves and eyes hanging over the crowd. The idea of ​​Finn Ross, by the way, does a lot of heavy lifting giving context to every scene. It’s a great choice for horses on the field, but most of the evening feels rushed and angry, when I could sit right there all night.

Lauren Warnecke is an independent critic.

lauren.warnecke@gmail.com

Review: “Anna Karenina” (3.5 stars)

By the time: On the 24th of Feb

Where: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Plug in: $35-179 at (312) 386-8905 and www.joffrey.org

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