The tragedy of Anna Karenina

img_9189By Yeru Ebuen — I’ve seen the film a few years back. I made an effort to line up at the cinema for the ticket because Leo Tolstoy, perhaps more famous to some for his War and Peace novel, is an inspiration. The fact that I forgot much of what happened on the movie is a testament of how forgettable it was. When I heard that Anna Karenina is being shown as a ballet at the Royal Opera House Muscat, I didn’t miss the opportunity to watch it. I think I wanted a re-imagination of the novel hoping this time it will connect with me more than the film did.
I rushed a lot of tasks on Satuday to get to its final showing at 4pm. I was dreading I wouldn’t like it for the same reason the film didn’t make much of a lasting impression. It always happens like that. The magic of the book is lost once it’s put into motion.
I was afraid the performance will come out hollow and forced. But I was hoping though, this time, something will go right, that I’d fall in love with Tolstoy again through this ballet.
img_9128Tolstoy, by the way, is perhaps one of the greatest writers of all time. It’s hard to imagine anyone not hearing of him.   For the uninitiated, the ballet Anna Karenina is based on Tolstoy’s famous late nineteenth-century novel that bears the same title. To quote ROHM’s primer, it relates the “story of Anna, a beautiful young princess and mother who is prominent among the aristocratic elite of nineteenth-century Moscow.”
The show began with a child sitting at one corner of a giant hall. We wouldn’t see much of him. He will only be shown at least twice during the whole performance but to me, his role was crucial. He communicated innocence and peace of which the rest of the show will be absent of.
As Anna and Alexie Karenin said their goodbye to the child, attending a gathering which they shouldn’t have, I began to pay close attention to how the music ebb and flow. It filled the void of the spoken word and to its tune, the precise yet graceful execution of the ballet dancers.
We were off to a good start.
img_8915Truth is, I started out blind on the whole performance. The night before, I didn’t review any notes about the book where it was base from. The scenes are familiar and as they were performed on stage live, the story came back to me. That means, for me, it was effective and stayed true to Tolstoy’s vision.
It’s also typical for me not to know the names of the performers of the show. It elevates the experience even more. I have the tendency to suspend disbelief. But it’s a must for me that the performers, actors or dancers, to be able to make me believe that they are their characters.  I came to watch and criticise.
The dancer playing Anna was surprisingly a delight. The scene alone of her leaving the child behind already established her propensity to carry drama and execute it really well. There was an intensity to her performance that is easy to relate with. For every of her writhing movement, I can feel Anna’s pain, joy and, peace and turmoil.
The dancers acting as Karenin and Vronksy were just as powerful performers. The scene of the fight between them was on its own flawlessly executed and just as exciting.
img_9338I measure a show’s success base on whether I remember little moments from it that I will keep on repeating to my friends or colleagues.  There were many stand out moments during the whole performance.
But nothing can beat the moment when Anna took her life. Because it was a moment when I heard gasps behind me. It was a moment when I was at the edge of my seat. And it was how performances should be like — to keep you at the edge of your seat, anticipating, expecting and clinching your fist.
Anna’s delirium, that moment where she was half-dead, half alive, made watching the whole show worth it.
Two days after, I can still hear in my brain’s ears the pump of Anna’s heart. I can still imagine the haunting, chaotic look on her face. I can still feel the delirium and it was how I imagined dying would be like. It was dark, messy, and frightening. And it was beautiful.
I have to give it up to everyone who’s part of this production. I’ve never really clapped so hard for anyone than after the show.
There’s something really tragic about Anna Karenina. It’s not just the story — which Tolstoy called his perfect work. The real tragedy of Anna Karenina is if you missed watching it.
Because it was indeed worthy of your time. Much more than the film.