Favourite fairy tale Nutcracker appears in theatre

Hoffmann’s Nutcracker is an indispensable part of Christmas and the New Year, with the immortal music of Tchaikovsky convincing us that love and kindness will always defeat evil

Hoffmann’s Nutcracker is an indispensable part of Christmas and the New Year, with the immortal music of Tchaikovsky convincing us that love and kindness will always defeat evil

The Nutcracker remains a firm favourite with audiences, delighting children and adults, although it lacked popularity when first premiered.  Tchaikovsky received an order for a new ballet from the Imperial Theatre in 1890, based on Alexander Duma’s retelling of Hoffmann’s Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Marius Petipa was to stage the ballet but the well-known choreographer fell ill, allowing Lev Ivanov to step in, following Marius’ plan.

Scene from Nutcracker ballet
Scene from Nutcracker ballet
Photo: BELTA

The opening night, on December 18th, 1892, at the Mariinsky Theatre, was not successful, with the second act devoted entirely to a divertissement in Konfituerenburg (Land of Sweets), with the ballerinas dressed as brioche; it was reviled by critics as vulgar. Nevertheless the staging existed for about 30 years. Initially, the main heroine was called Clara, but changed to Masha after the First World War began, to reflect a wave of patriotism. Fritz preserved his original name, being a negative character.

The Nutcracker has become a classic, staged repeatedly in traditional and innovative forms. It as been staged three times at our Bolshoi Theatre: in 1956 by Konstantin Muller; in 1982 by Valentin Yelizariev; and in 2013 by Alexandra Tikhomirova. The new choreographic version — The Nutcracker, or Another Christmas Story — has toured successfully in Germany and Austria. Meanwhile, students at the Belarusian State Choreography Gymnasium-College have danced this famous New Year fairy tale on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre, in Belarus.

By Irina Yurieva
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