Review: With angry protests outside the Lyric and great artistry on stage, Joffrey Ballet brings back ‘Anna Karenina’
Opening night brought terrific performances all around, most notably from Anais Bueno as the effervescent Kitty, who starts out loving Vronsky and eventually figures out that Konstantin Levin, a role that has yielded career-best performances from Yoshihisa Arai, is the man of her dreams. The ballet ends in the Russian countryside with Kitty and Levin living happily ever after.
Dylan Gutierrez is typically seen in more sympathetic roles, but here he quite easily adopts Karenin’s harsh, discerning demeanor. Hyuma Kiyosawa is equally terrific as the station guard who foreshadows Anna’s death. Indeed, the whole company has relaxed into these characters and gotten better at telling a complicated, trifurcated story. Its newness worn off, the nervous franticness of this ballet in 2019 has all but vanished in 2023.
It is worth pausing to note how rare an original story ballet is — particularly one of this quality and magnitude. While ballet companies toil away remaking antiquated “Swan Lakes” guaranteed to draw a crowd, “Anna Karenina” is risky, expensive and ambitious. “Anna Karenina” is a feat of artistic genius in its top-shelf creative team (with exquisite costumes and set by Tom Pye, David Finn’s moody lighting and Finn Ross’ cinematic projections) and some of the best narrative choreography created for a 21st century ballet.