We made a brief stop for a snack and then we were off to the ballet. Lyalya had scored us tickets to Anyuta, a ballet based, oddly, on a movie based on a short story. I don’t go to the ballet at home, and I only rarely find myself at an opera or the symphony, so I was super excited. We entertained ourselves taking photos in the gorgeous surroundings.
Anyuta is unusual; it was first staged for television in 1982. Aleksander Belinsky, the screenwriter and director, had always wanted to do a T.V. ballet based on a Chekhov story. He heard a certain waltz by Gavrilin and thought, “Hey! That waltz sounds really Chekhov-like!” So he put together the T.V. version based on one of the author’s short stories and it was a huge hit, not just in the Soviet Union, but also in Europe. Eventually the T.V. version was made into a stage version in 1986.
You can certainly tell that this is a ballet with modern sensibilities, from the music to the dances to the plot. It wasn’t modern in the sense that there was nothing really weird. Nothing avant-garde. But there was a certain sense of humor in the production that you wouldn’t see in some other work of classical ballet like Swan Lake or something. And the plot is typical Chekhov in that nothing ends the way you think it will.
Anyuta is the oldest of three children. When she’s in her late teens her mother dies, leaving her with all the responsibility of caring for her father and her two younger brothers. Her father becomes an indebted alcoholic and the family teeters on the edge of complete ruin. Anyuta uses her only resource– her own self– to help her family by marrying an older, wealthier (yet boring and ugly) man. But this man doesn’t let her help her family at all. In fact, he barely even feeds her. But he certainly makes sure that she is clothed in the finest fashions and is dripping in jewels when she goes outside the house. After all, he is hoping that by having a young and beautiful wife, he will advance in his career.
As Anyuta makes her way in high society, she becomes the “It” girl of her time. Her husband is delighted when she begins affairs with his superiors and he is soon awarded the coveted Order of St. Anne. She delights in her new power and tells her husband to get lost. And here’s the kicker: she then tells her family to get lost, too. Checkhov was certainly no sentimental schmaltzer.
Afterwards we met up with Lyalya’s friend Aliyah for a late dinner. While we were waiting for our taxi to supposedly arrive, someone else jumped into it and sped away. This made Lyalya very upset as she contacted the taxi company. “You must send a taxi immediately!” she ordered. “The foreigner is freezing!!!!!”
We drank to our health and ate some very pretty food before collapsing into bed for the night.