HELSINKI SANOMAT, Helsinki/Finalnd
The premier of “Anna Karenina” has just ended. I am moving unconfidently, my throat burning, towards the exit of the Turku City Theater, and I have absolutely no desire to talk about what I’ve just seen and heard, nor about what I’ve experienced and perceived through other senses and the fibers of my soul.
The direction and arrangement by Andrei Zholdak inflamed unprecedented passions around the romanticized work of the Russian classic Leo Tolstoy. Krista Kosonen (background) playing Anna Karenina, whom young count Voronskyi (Markus Järvenpää) is passionately in love with, rejecting his bride Kitty (Elina Aalto, foreground). The roles of Voronsky and Kitty are also played in turn by Stefan Karlsson and Camilla Adolfsson correspondingly.
From the very beginning, it is obvious that Tolstoy’s text will be deprived of its eloquent loftiness, just like the ephemeral masks of decency and chastity will be ripped off of the heroes representing the high society. All that is to remain is the explosive feelings, the blazing desire and the scorching passion.
Like two meteorites, Anna and Vronsky dash towards each other, throw themselves into each other’s embrace as if at the threshold of the end of the world, and cling together tightly, drowning in the ocean of love. Beautiful and strong people shrug and shudder at the power of their feelings and behave like insane, ignoring the existence of anything or anyone other than the object of their love. When alone, they draw in lungsful of air, gasping like fish tossed to the shore and which have been able to plunge into eternity and endlessness for an instant. She devastates her marriage, and he ruins his career. The families are dumbfounded by the situation and the society is building up rejection and criticism against them.
The director makes a dazzling sight of the relations of the hearts in love, in which the mirror devours the love-stricken woman, whereas the man plodding through a gigantic wall of routine. Anna is leading her loved one on an invisible leash towards more and more kisses; their furious oaths will leave no spectator unmoved. Zholdak’s “Anna Karenina” strips feelings naked in a most thrilling manner. Passion is an untamed bestial power, and jealousy drives one crazy; however, instead of an explicit woman and rude agonies, what we see onstage are the feelings incarnate. It is fragments of despair and an ecstasy in 3D that we perceive rather than the actions caused by them.
Such acknowledgement of the spectator is dismaying, and it would have never been made possible without young actors who were totally committed to acting. Krista Kosonen played the frantic Anna; she is bright, uncompromising, outgoing and strong-willed. There is no sacrifice, just a majestic woman, completely devoted to her feelings, yet well aware of the consequences of her actions. Kosonen’s mimics and her extreme dedication fascinate you from the very beginning of the play, though the many bruises she has do betray a history of intense rehearsals. According to the director’s decision, actors are to yell out all their parts pretty often, thus making them void of any tinges, but this is consistent with Kosonen’s busy schedule and Anna’s character. Markus Järvenpää playing count Voronsky is credible in physical sense rather than sensual. In any case, the actor’s abilities and his energy give rise to physical attraction. The captivating relationship with Anna, as well as the count’s icy pas de deuxit in relations with his bride Kitty, whom he perceives as a little girl, are beautiful beyond all doubt.
Zholdak’s limitless requirements have not always fallen in line with the possibilities of the entire crew, that is, the staff of Turku City Theater. Very often, it was impossible to understand remarks (and these were many), compelling to work with full strength. Obviously, a remark is that something which comes and disappears in the production process; the speech becomes profounder, and the feelings and thoughts help understand the text better. The overwhelming intensity of the production is shaken every time anyone other than the above-mentioned masters comes into limelight, like the young actors fresh from the theatrical school. Due to the same reason, group scenes result more likely in certain decrease of intensity rather than in the moments of climax. For instance, the play opens up with a rather clumsy, though grotesque and funny, prologue in the film noir style, but turbulence does not show even in the ball scene of part one, which looks banal with its decadent mood and Venetian masks.
The performance hits the right track only when Anna and Vronsky are close enough from each other to let a spark ignite between them. The script of the production keeps the audience in tension due to the unfeasibility of such love and the gap between dreams and expectations. The feeling is broken off just as suddenly as it emerges. The roof literally begins to leak. Vronsky cannot stand the stagnation of his relationship with Anna and loses zeal for it like a hunter who loses interest in that which he hunted down already. Anna is left alone with her feelings and the final scene is as old as hills: the disillusioned woman grabs an axe and cuts the tree down in fury at first, then in ecstasy, and finally, lifts it back up. Cutting down and lifting up – and so on. “Anna Karenina” is the story of Anna, her pure, uncompromising, demanding and, therefore, unacceptable love
The only thing that I believe did not receive complete development in the production is motherly love. Anna’s affection for her son, both in the novel and in the stage variant, is portrayed to be so strong that it subdues the sensual love as passion fades away. However, we did not see that here. What we saw here is beautiful, powerful, passionate, and yet poetical. In “Anna Karenina” there is even humor, but nothing shocking. Sometimes the action of the play is taken from the private room lit with a crystal chandelier out to the snow-covered ice, and even to a dark mystical forest at times. People are struggling with the wind and their own feelings, enjoying the moments pass swiftly by, painfully missing that which they will never have.
The sound arrangement of the four-act play is an amazing work of art in itself. The classical music by Vladimir Klykov absorbs seemingly detached singular accents, which, however, become increasingly meaningful in the scope of the play. Water splashes under the feet of a woman who is disappointed with her love. The sound of a falling tree does not disappear even at night.
Zholdak created images, which permeate all levels of conscience. After the four-hour-long premier, I am physically emaciated, as if I myself was running on that stage and screaming. I am really tired, but I will not fall asleep quickly. And when I have finally fallen asleep, the ghosts of the play will turn in my subconscience into a movie.
Premier 2012 - Opera EUGENE ONEGIN
Opera EUGENE ONEGIN premier in 2015
LETTER TO ACTORS
THEORY / LECTURES OF ANDRIY ZHOLDAK