The Australian Ballet

Anna Karenina Synopsis

117 ANNA KARENINA photo Jeff Busby 1
"All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Leo Tol­stoy, Anna Karenina

Prologue | Moscow

A train station of the St Petersburg Railway

An old station guard walks, forcing himself against a strong wind. Walking through the snow, the guard leaves behind a foot trail. A faceless crowd emerges from the shadows. The old man accidentally falls on the tracks and is crushed by an oncoming train. Among the horrified crowd are Anna Karenina and Alexei Vronsky. Anna and Vronsky meet and sense an immediate attraction.

Act I

Scene 1 | Moscow

Shcherbatsky House, Salon

Countess Nordston, the young Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya and her parents and friends gather at the Shcherbatsky home. Kitty is anticipating the arrival of Count Vronsky. A long-time family friend, Constantine Levin, enters the salon. He is clearly in love with Kitty and makes a proposal, but she does not share the same feelings and declines with a heavy heart. Vronsky arrives and is greeted by Kitty, but he is distracted by a brief glimpse of Anna, who was leaving the house as he entered. Vronsky shows Kitty polite affection. Countess Nordston invites everyone to participate in a séance. During the séance, Vronsky has a vision of Anna.

Scene 2 | Moscow

A Ballroom

Guests dance at a ball in Moscow. Kitty arrives looking for Vronsky. Kitty and Vronsky dance. She has high expectations of him proposing tonight. Anna arrives and steals Vronsky’s attention. They dance. Kitty watches in despair: Vronsky loves another.

Scene 3 | St Petersburg

Train Station/Karenin House/A Hotel

Alexei Karenin waits for his wife alone on the platform at St Petersburg train station. Anna arrives, followed by Vronsky, whom she has to introduce to her husband. At home with her husband and son, Seryozha, Anna acknowledges a void in her life. She departs the house in search of her new love. Anna and Vronsky’s affair begins.

Scene 4 | St Petersburg

A Racecourse

Spectators take their places in the stands at the racecourse. The Karenins meet Anna’s friend Betsy Tverskaya. A group of jockeys, including Vronsky, start to race. Vronsky takes a fall and his horse is badly injured. Anna’s reaction reveals her feelings and affection for Vronsky to Karenin and the crowd. Vronsky retrieves a gun and shoots his horse.


Act II

Prologue | St Petersburg

Karenin House: Delirium

Anna lies ill in bed with a fever. She has a vision of the old station guard and imagines a life lived happily with both her husband and her lover.

Scene 1 | St Petersburg

Karenin House: Reality

Karenin, in total despair, is at the foot of Anna’s bed. Anna is on the verge of dying. Vronsky, devastated and lost, standing at her side, asks forgiveness from her husband and runs away in shame. Karenin calls on the doctor, who administers morphine to Anna. She is hallucinating.

Scene 2 | St Petersburg


Karenin takes a stand in Parliament, presenting his proposal of a new law on immigrants residing in Russia, but it is not received well by the other members.

Scene 3 | Italy/Russia

Anna and Vronsky have a new life in the Italian countryside. Meanwhile, in Russia, Levin dares to propose to Kitty again and she gratefully accepts. Anna and Vronsky’s relationship shows signs of discord. Vronsky leaves Anna and she falls into despair.

Scene 4 | St Petersburg

Karenin House

Anna secretly comes to visit her dear son, Seryozha. Karenin finds her in their son’s room. They fight over Seryozha and Karenin makes Anna leave, separating the mother and the son forever.

Scene 5 | St Petersburg

Betsy Tverskaya’s Salon

Betsy is hosting friends at her home. Kitty and Levin arrive and announce their engagement. The guests extend their congratulations. In the course of the evening, Vronsky has another vision of Anna: a foreboding premonition.

Scene 6 | St Petersburg

Obiralovka Train Station

Anna takes morphine to dull her misery. She recognizes a simple way to end her suffering. She throws herself beneath an oncoming train.

Epilogue | Russia

A Field in the Countryside

Kitty and Levin enjoy a simple country life. Levin reflects on the people who have influenced him. On one hand, he feels tragic loss. On the other, happiness. He finds contentment in understanding the purpose of his life.


Choreography Yuri Possokhov
Composer Ilya Demutsky
Libretto Valeriy Pecheykin based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy
Costume and set design Tom Pye
Original lighting design David Finn
Projection design Finn Ross
Reproduced for The Australian Ballet in 2021 by Callum Walker (CVP Events, Film & TV)

Anna Karenina was a co-production of the Joffrey Ballet and The Australian Ballet.

Our thanks to our Official Piano Partner Kawai, who supplied the SK7 Grand Piano used in these performances.