Thomas Mann once named Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina "the greatest social novel of world literature." When reading the novel, John Neumeier was deeply fascinated by Tolstoy's work: not only by the main characters and the plot, but also by the extraordinary variety of thematic connections. It is a story of three families. John Neumeier states: "Tolstoy himself wrote and published 'Anna Karenina' as a serial story over a number of years. The feeling in the novel of a developing contemporary narrative - similar to a television series of today - is underlined by the fact that the novel does not end with the death of the title character. My challenge was therefore to give true life and relevance to the story by selecting key emotional situations and essential characters to fit within the framework of an evening-long ballet."