The Nutcracker Suite
Christmas is a magical time in the life of a child. They wait with much anticipation to see what toys they might receive. With the help of mom or dad, they put out milk and cookies along with a handwritten note for Santa. They know he’ll see it when he visits their home and leaves toys for them by the Christmas tree. After all, they’ve been good this year. They see the wrapped gifts under the beautifully decorated tree and they know which gifts bare their name. After all, they’ve searched and wondered what might be underneath all the wrappings. No, they’re not wishing for gingerbread pajamas. Their imaginations are much more ingenious. They want toys! Why? Because toys allow them to play and have fun. Toys allow them to dream and fantasize with no boundaries. After all, they believe in fairy tales. One particular toy opened up a whole new world for a little girl. Given to her on Christmas Eve, the toy was a wooden nutcracker and it has a magical story.
The Nutcracker first came to life in E.T.A. Hoffman’s book “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” which was published in 1816. The original story was much darker than the now beloved fairy tale, which is based on Alexandre Dumas’ lighter version. It is this reworking that encompasses much of what we know as The Nutcracker today.
The Nutcracker first debuted on December 18, 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The ballet showcased as a dual performance along with Pyotr (Peter) Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre. The reviews were disappointing, as the story line did not stay true to the original version and the choreography was considered confusing.
The original choreographer, Frenchmen Marius Petipa developed an illness and was replaced by his assistant, Lev Ivanov prior to the debut. In 1919, Russian choreographer, Alexander Gorsky made changes to the dance routines and cast a teenage girl as the lead, Clara (called Marie in Hoffman’s original tale and Masha in the Great Russian Nutcracker) instead of a young child. This adjustment made the story more realistic considering Clara falls in love with the Nutcracker who comes alive and becomes a prince.
The ballet’s popularity began to grow and in 1934 it was performed in England. A condensed version was presented in New York City in 1940, with the full ballet performed by the San Francisco Ballet four years later. In the U.S., it was Willam Christensen who first introduced the production, however, choreographer, George Balanchine popularized it making it a holiday classic. Since the story takes place during Christmastime, ballet companies around the globe perform The Nutcracker during the holiday season.
The Great Russian Nutcracker, which is Moscow’s version and set in the famous city first toured the states for six weeks in 1993 and was a huge success. It now tours annually throughout the U.S. However, there are some notable differences, such as the setting is in the iconic city of Moscow, the lead character’s name has been changed to Masha, and the Land of Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairies live is now the Land of Peace and Harmony where all creatures live in one accord. Exclusive to the Great Russian Nutcracker is the Dove of Peace, which is performed by two dancers dressed in white who beautifully create stunning images of the winged bird through their choreographed movement.
Whether the Nutcracker or the Great Russian Nutcracker, this must see holiday tradition is a crowd pleaser for young and old and one you won’t want to miss. Perhaps you’ll find tickets to the ballet, instead of pajamas, wrapped under your own Christmas tree this season.
Prior to the original premiere, Tchaikovsky chose eight musical arrangements for a concert performance in March of 1892. This composition is known as The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a, which became incredibly popular. The songs include: Miniature Overture, March, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Russian Dance, Arabian Dance, Chinese Dance, Dance of the Reed Flutes, and the Waltz of the Flowers. One of the most recognized songs, The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, uses the celstra, an instrument Tchaikovsky came across while traveling to Paris.
Click on the below link to view our Nutcracker Sweet Breakfast.
© By Sheri Lamas