Chicago welcomes the Joffrey Ballet’s rendition of Yuri Possokhov’s version of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna Karenina. The ballet masterpiece is known for its original score and breathtaking, cinematic production by an all-star creative team. This is the first time the production has been performed since its world premiere in 2019.
Possokhov’s immersive adaptation—winner of the 2019 “Oscars of Dance” Benois de la Danse International Prize for Best Choreography—features an original composition by award-winning composer Ilya Demutsky, costumes and sets by Emmy Award-winning designer Tom Pye, and lighting by famed designer David Finn. Anna Karenina will be presented at the historic Lyric Opera House, 20 North Upper Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, in ten performances only, from February 15-26, 2023.
Love is all-consuming for the beautiful but married Anna, who in the pursuit of passion, finds herself caught in a life-changing affair with the dashing Count Vronsky. Set in the late 19th century, Tolstoy’s classic shows the triumph of romance, family, and faith against a backdrop of fraught political and social transformation.
With countless adaptations across ballet, theatre, opera, and film, Anna Karenina is often considered the earliest example of modernist literature and one of the greatest works of literature in history. Possokhov’s version updates the timeless story for contemporary audiences with its captivating choreography, stunning costume design, and cinematic storytelling that unravels the profound power, passion, and desire that shapes the 19th century novel.
The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet Ashley Wheater MBE says, “Anna Karenina is a powerful universal love story animated by the highs and lows of human emotion. I am especially grateful to partner again with esteemed choreographer Yuri Possokhov to remount a multi-dimensional production that touched audiences across Chicago and beyond with its immersive artistry.”
As my guest and I made our way up to the Civic Opera House to attend a performance of Anna Karenina, our eyes caught a small group of Ukrainian nationals who were protesting The Joffrey Ballet’s Chicago’s decision to go ahead with the performances, despite the current, ongoing civil war between Russia and Ukraine. Tolstoy himself was against capitalism, communism and violence. He wrote the novel to showcase the themes of human nature, love, passion, kindness, status and family.
The Chicago Joffrey Ballet never ceases to amaze me with its plethora of talented dancers. This diverse, spectacular ensemble brings Anna Karenina to life in many ways through flawless dance movement, emotion and acting. Christine Rocas (Anna Karenina) was superb and dreamlike with a fiery passion burning inside, as Anna, who must make life-changing decisions when her choices threaten her very place in elite Russian society. Her lover, Count Vronsky (Dylan Gutierrez), was also excellent, a lost man who becomes obsessed with Anna, and feels that his sole happiness in life is based on their love for each other. The two lovers get caught in a doomed web of love, passion and pain, while Anna’s government official husband, Alexey Karenin (played by Velentino Mongelia Zamora), completes the third part of the love triangle.
The rest of the Joffrey ensemble’s performance was perfect and brought the story of Anna Karenina to life. The entire cast danced with emotion, expression and feeling, to help the characters communicate the story’s message to the audience.
Though the Joffrey Ballet boasts as one of the best ballet companies in the world, let us not forget the rest of the stars in the production: the costumes, set/stage design, choreography and music. The costume design (Tom Pye) was simply fantastic, depicting elite life and status during late 19th century imperial Russia. The set and stage design (Tom Pye) and lighting design (David Finn), set haunting emotion and contrast to the production, creating a fabulous use of lighting to create drama and expression. From the grand ball scenes to the train station to the rural farm lands of Russia, the projections, props and design, all helped to create depth and dimension, beginning the story alive.
The breathtaking choreography by Yuri Possokhov added a contemporary twist, while bringing a fresh take to the story. The music was beyond beautiful and memorable, performed live by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, accompanied in several scenes by the luminous voices of Lyric Opera vocalists, Lindsay Meztinger and Jenner Kosharsky. If you are looking for something completely different, do not miss The Joffrey Ballet’s Anna Karenina. The story, dancing, performers and music, will all stay with you long after the curtain goes down.
Anna Karenina features live music performed by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Scott Speck, Music Director of The Joffrey Ballet.
The Joffrey Ballet performs Anna Karenina from Wednesday, February 15 to Sunday, February 26, 2023, at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Upper Wacker Drive.
Single tickets start at $36 and are available for purchase at Lyric Opera Box Office located at 20 N. Upper Wacker Dr. by telephone at 312.386.8905, or online at The Joffrey Ballet website.