Friday, December 04, 2015

Nutcracker season

Christmas is around the corner and for ballet lovers around the world this means… Nutcracker season! Let’s find out more about this widely loved ballet!

The Fairytale

The well known ballet story has its origins in Ernst Hoffman’s tale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, a cruel and violent story on human nature written in 1816. The tale was adapted in 1844 by Alexander Doumas Father, who turned into a tender story for children.

The Ballet

The first Nutcracker ballet was created in 1891, for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg. Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky collaborated with choreographer Marious Petipa to create a ballet in two acts, which would become one of the most popular ballets in ballet history.

The Failure

The Nutcracker premiered in Marinsky Theateron December 18th 1892 and was hardly considered a success. The plot and choreography were deemed as too complex and confusing. However critics and audience recognized the grandeur of Tchaikovsky’s music.

The success

After the mediocre premiere it took a long time for the ballet to start gaining recognition. It was presented for the first time outside of Russia in 1934 in London. It took ten more years for its first staging in the States from the San Francisco Ballet. And it was even later that it starting gaining success, when Georges Balanchine created his own choreography for The Nutcracker production of the New York City Ballet, in 1954. Most Nutcracker productions since are based on Balanchine’s version. Today, The Nutcracker is considered the most staged ballet around the world, especially during Christmas holiday season.
The story

The Nutcracker story takes place on Christmas Eve. Little Clara receives a strange gift from her controversial godfather: a wooden soldier doll that operates as a nutcracker. When the Christmas celebration is over and all guest have left, Clara falls asleep on the couch with the Nutcracker in her arms. The clock strikes midnight and the girl is transferred into a fairytale world where the Nutcracker and all the toys come to life and fight against an army of mice that invade the room. The Nutcracker wins the battle and is transformed into a handsome prince.

In act two, Clara and the Prince embark on a magical trip: from the Snow Queen all the way to the Land of Sweets. Soon it’s dawning and Clara wakes up to find that the prince is transformed back to a wooden nutcracker…

Did you know

-- Tchaikovsky himself didn’t think much of the original production. In a letter he mentions that ‘in spite of all the sumptuousness it did turn out to be rather boring.’ He also found the music to be much inferior to that of The Sleeping Beauty he had composed two years prior.

-- The Nutcracker story has also been produced numerous times for the big screen and adapted for animation movies. You can watch Balanchine’s movie version here and an old school animated movie here.

-- This year, in Thessaloniki we will have the chance to watch The Nutcracker ballet from the National Opera Ballet, choreographed by Renato Zanella.
Watch the trailer:

-- Every year Ovation TV organizes the Battle of the Nutcrackers: they choose the best Nutcracker productions of the past year and invites viewers to watch them and vote for their favorite!

-- The Nutcracker story has also been published numerous times as a children’s’ book, with amazing illustrations. Some of our favorites:

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