Leo Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’ turned into a musical

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This, the opening line of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” is just as much a classic as the novel it begins. The book, first published in 1875-1877, has inspired more than 30 screen adaptions, a stage play and a ballet, but it is only recently that the tragic love story has been to music and expressed in lyrics. The Moscow Operetta Theater’s musical version of the novel opened in October. “

Source: Press photo

Anna Karenina” is the third original Russian musical to be staged at the theater. The show’s producer, Alexei Bolonin, spent a number of years staging licensed Western musicals. He was instrumental in bringing “Metro,” “Notre Dame de Paris” and “Romeo & Juliette” to Russia in the 2000s.

“Back then, we did not yet have a culture of musicals; the very word itself sounded strange to the Russian ear. Now an understanding of this genre has developed. We realized that we can create something of our own,” Bolonin said.

Eventually, however, Russians began to develop their own musical theater culture. The first original musical produced at the Operetta Theater was “The Count of Monte Cristo.” This musical, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, premiered in 2008.

In 2012, this musical was replaced in the theater’s repertoire by “Count Orlov,” which tells the story of a courtier of Catherine the Great who falls from grace. The librettos for both productions were written by Yuli Kim, a popular Russian singer-songwriter and former Soviet dissident. The music was composed by Roman Ignatyev. This same team worked on “Anna Karenina.”

The main character of the new musical is the train. It blinds the audience at the very start of the show and in the finale, Karenina falls under its wheels. Throughout the night, a huge wheel suspended from the ceiling turns, a reminder of inescapable destiny and wicked fate. The action of the musical takes place against a backdrop of symphonic rock — as the critics have characterized the production’s musical style — performed by a live orchestra.

“Tolstoy’s novel like no other is suited for a musical because it has all the necessary ingredients; most importantly, a love story,” said Bolonin, explaining his choice of material. “We, of course, cannot address his philosophical ideas, as this is not the right genre for that. But some things that were important for Tolstoy are reflected in the sets or in the lyrics, and there are some direct quotes from the novel, too.”

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