Kenneth MacMillan created a one-act ballet Anastasia for Deutsche Oper Ballet in 1967. He was inspired by the true story of Anna Anderson, a woman who believed herself to be Anastasia, youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and the only survivor from the assassination of the Romanovs in 1918. Leaving the audience to decide the legitimacy of Anna’s claims, MacMillan created a haunting, expressionist work to Martinů’s Sixth Symphony, in which Anna is visited by confused nightmares of her life from the time of the massacre to her discovery in Berlin in 1920. The ballet won widespread acclaim on its premiere, particularly for the central performance of Lynn Seymour in the anguished title role. As MacMillan said in 1971, ‘I found in [Anna’s] story a theme that has sometimes appeared in my work before: the Outsider figure. Anastasia seems to me to be a supreme example of this’.
One of MacMillan’s first creative acts on becoming Director of The Royal Ballet was to adapt Anastasia into a three-act, full-length work, his first for the Company since Romeo and Juliet. He created two preceding acts to the Berlin act, using music by Tchaikovsky to explore Anna’s ‘memory’ of events in the Imperial family leading up to the Russian Revolution – providing a powerful context for the disturbed Anna’s nightmares of the final act. The full ballet, first performed in 1971, was a declaration of intent: it showcased MacMillan’s dual influences, of classical, Royal Ballet tradition in the first two acts, and of German expressionism – a style then entirely new to British audiences – in the final. The ballet remains one of MacMillan’s most experimental and poignant works.
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Other ways to watch
Events overtake the young Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov and her family: World War I is declared, and then the Russian Revolution brings their privileged lives to an end.
A woman who believes herself to be Anastasia, sole survivor from the massacre of the Romanovs, is incarcerated in an asylum. Memory and fantasy intermingle; she recalls her rescue, the death of her husband, the disappearance of her child and her attempted suicide. But, despite her nightmares, her faith in her own identity cannot be shaken.
OrchestraOrchestra of the Royal Opera House
Co-concert masterSergey Levitin
Tsar Nicholas IIChristopher Saunders
Tsarina Alexandra FeodorovnaChristina Arestis
Grand Duchess Anastasia / Anna AndersonNatalia Osipova
Mathilde KschessinskaMarianela Nuñez
Kschessinska's PartnerFederico Bonelli
The HusbandEdward Watson