By Catherine Hellmann, Guest Critic
Posted on the Joffrey’s Website:
“Potential Protest Demonstration
The Joffrey supports the right to freedom of expression.
Please be aware that there is a possibility of demonstrators protesting the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the vicinity of the Lyric Opera House.”
Indeed, audience members approaching the Lyric Opera on Wednesday night February 15 were greeted by peaceful protestors bearing signs, the now-familiar yellow and blue flags of Ukraine, and even a couple effigies criticizing Russia. The Joffrey Ballet’s decision to stage Anna Karenina by Russian author Leo Tolstoy was viewed as a celebration of Russian culture while Ukraine is being decimated by the Russian invasion.
The Joffrey Ballet is to be commended for how they handled the possibly inflammatory situation. An announcement was made before the show expressing support for the country of Ukraine. Lights projected on the Lyric stage were yellow and blue. The Lyric Opera Orchestra played a beautiful symphonic piece by a Ukrainian composer to honor the Ukrainian people.
Despite politics, art endures.
The ballet, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, was stunning. The costumes by Tom Pye were beautiful. The projections by Finn Ross also added a lot of context to the production. The results are magical.
The tragic story of Anna and her lover, Count Vronsky, cannot end happily. Young Princess Kitty loves Vronsky, but he is obviously smitten by Anna. Family friend Constantine Levin does love Kitty, but she wants the emotionally unavailable Vronsky. (At this point, I am reminded of a love triangle that currently exists among the high school teenagers I teach, and my head hurts…) Anna is already married to Alexey Karenin with whom she shares a son. She and Vronsky run away to Italy where Anna gets very ill. Her husband is not allowing her to see their son anymore. Kitty accepts Levin’s latest proposal, so there is that. Anna throws herself (spoiler of a novel written in 1878!) in front of a train. What a drama queen…
My favorite quote of the evening was my friend’s mother-in-law who observed, on all the movement happening in the bed at one point,”Oh, I know what was going on there.” ;-)
The leads were spectacular. Anna Karenina was beautifully played by Victoria Jaiani. The rejected-but-gorgeous Alexey Karenin was danced by Dylan Gutierrez. Adorable and hot Alberto Velazquez was Alexey Vronsky. Anais Bueno was a lovely Kitty. Konstatin Levin was danced by Yoshihisa Arai, who was also the Nutcracker Prince we saw in December. I just love the diverse roster of dancers assembled by Joffrey from all over the world. It makes me so happy to see this talented assembly of artists.
Christine Rocas and Ensemble
Politics may divide us, unfortunately.
But art and beauty bring us together.
Catherine Hellmann is a teacher, mom, and art lover. She visited Russia in 2003 through an educator program and loved the people and culture in Vyborg, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. Russia has a very special place in her heart. The current events in Ukraine are infuriating and sorrowful.