For over a century, the Nutcracker ballet has been a beloved holiday tradition, captivating audiences with its mesmerizing music by Tchaikovsky and intricate choreography by Marius Petipa. Since its premiere in the 1940s, it has enchanted audiences in western countries with its magical tale. Join us as we delve into the fascinating history and composition of this timeless classic, and discover the exclusive “Dove of Peace” in the NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet – just one of the many enchanting elements that make this story so special. Grab your favorite holiday treat, and prepare to be transported on a journey into the heart of this cherished tale.
THE CLASSIC CHRISTMAS STORY BALLET
The origin of the Nutcracker, a classic Christmas Story, is a fairy tale ballet in two acts centered on a family’s Christmas Eve celebration. Alexandre Dumas Père’s adaptation of the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann was set to music by Tchaikovsky and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa. It was commissioned by the director of Moscow’s Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, in 1891, and premiered a week before Christmas 1892.
Since premiering in western countries in the 1940s, this ballet has become perhaps the most popular to be performed around Christmas time. The story centers on a young girl’s Christmas Eve and her awakening to the wider world and romantic love. The composer made a selection of eight of the more popular pieces before the ballet’s December 1892 premiere, forming what is currently known as the Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a, as is heard in NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet productions. The suite became instantly popular; however, the complete ballet did not achieve its great popularity as a Christmas performance event until almost 100 years later.
PERFORMANCE HISTORY & THE ST. PETERSBURG PREMIERE
The first performance of the Christmas ballet was held as a double premiere together with Tchaikovsky’s last opera, Iolanta, around the Christmas holiday season on December 18 [O.S. December 6] 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is generally agreed that Lev Ivanov, Second Balletmaster to the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, worked closely with Marius Petipa, Premier Maître de Ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres and widely regarded as the Father of Russian Ballet, to create the holiday ballet. It was conducted by Riccardo Drigo, with Antoinetta Dell-Era as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Pavel Gerdt as her Prince, Stanislava Belinskaya as Clara/Masha, Sergei Legat as the Nutcracker Prince, and Timofei Stukolkin as Uncle Drosselmeyer. More about Tchaikovsky’s classic ‘Nutcracker’ score.
IN EUROPE & THE U.S.
The Christmas ballet was first performed outside of Russia in England in 1934. Its first United States performance was in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet, staged by its artistic director and Balanchine student Willam Christensen. The New York City Ballet first performed George Balanchine’s Nutcracker in 1954 but the holiday ballet did not begin to achieve its great popularity until after the George Balanchine staging became a hit in New York City. The now well known Christmas ballet has been reimagined in many television, film and literary adaptations. The plot revolves around a German girl named Clara Stahlbaum and her coming-of-age one Christmas eve. In Hoffmann’s tale, the girl’s name is Marie or Maria, while Clara – or “Klärchen” – is the name of one of her dolls. In NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet, our protagonist is affectionately named Clara.
NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet
NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet includes other unique elements in the telling of the traditional holiday tale. Set in the magical past of a far off Victorian capitol, the city’s famous scintillating skyline is featured as a backdrop. Folk characters present in all European cultures Father Christmas and Snow Maiden escort Clara and the Nutcracker Prince to their dream world in Act II.
Finally the “Dove of Peace,” exclusive to NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet, welcomes the couple to the “Land of Peace and Harmony” traditionally called “The Land of Sweets.” The “Dove of Peace” was inspired by performances of Stanislov Vlasov, former Bolshoi Ballet dancer and choreographer/ballet master of NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet’s inaugural 1993 North American tour, and partner Lilia Sabitova, People’s Artist.