The Nutcracker, Ballet by P. I. Tchaikovsky
The Nutcracker is the ideal Christmas present for everyone who loves ballet. Its instantly recognisable music, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is as much a delight as the dances originally created for it by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa.
Based on Alexandre Dumas, père’s adaptation of The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, a fairy tale by E.T.A Hoffmann, the story of The Nutcracker is a perfect childhood dream. At a party, a girl called Clara receives the gift of a toy nutcracker, beautifully dressed in military regalia. Her brother Fritz breaks the figure which is then put back together again by the mysterious Drosselmeyer.
As Clara falls asleep, The Nutcracker comes alive and leads his soldiers into battle against an army of mice. Just as the mice are on the verge of victory, Clara intervenes, killing their king. The Nutcracker turns into a prince and takes Clara on a magical journey through lands of snow and sweets before she finally awakens from her slumber.
Premiered at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on 18 December 1892, the Wiener Staatsoper’s version of The Nutcracker uses Rudolf Nureyev’s choreography for the work, first performed by the Royal Swedish Ballet in Stockholm on 17 November 1967.
Notwithstanding the brilliance of its dances, The Nutcracker has, in the past, had its critics. Some felt that the story was just a pretext for its principal dancers and corps de ballet to dazzle. Nureyev’s revival strengthened the ballet’s appeal for all ages with Clara’s journey transformed from a child’s fantasy to the story of a young woman’s coming of age.
Whatever perspective we have on The Nutcracker, its huge array of characters including, of course, The Sugar Plum Fairy, never fails to enthral its audiences. No Christmas is complete without it.