Music: Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Artistic Director and Choreographer: Konstantin Uralsky
Reviewer: Naomi Stevens
Ever since its first performance in 1892, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker has been entertaining audiences with the ballet version of E T A Hoffmann’s 1819 story of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. This version is brought to British audiences by the Russian State Ballet and Opera House and it is entirely charming.
This festive tale is set on Christmas Eve and opens during a house party. The story is of a little girl – Marie Stahlbaum – and her brother, Fritz, who are excited by the arrival of their Uncle Drossmeyer, a favourite among the children because he always brings presents with him.The gifts include a doll, a harlequin – both of whom are mechanical – and a nutcracker, which Marie falls in love with. Sadly Fritz grabs it and breaks it. As the party ends and the house falls quiet, Marie creeps back to find the nutcracker. Suddenly Drosselmeyer enters and magic starts to happen – the Christmas tree grows, the toys come to life and a battle ensues between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker with his soldiers.
The Nutcracker, who becomes a handsome prince, and Marie then go on a wonderful adventure in the country of fairy tales and along the way they meet once again the Mouse King and his army as well as the Sugar Plum Fairy who joins in the celebrations with them once the Mouse King has been defeated.
This production is elegant, beautiful and enthralling. The live orchestra, under the guidance of Sergey Grinev, creates a sound that sweeps the audience into Marie’s world. Tchaikovsky’s score is simply fabulous and because many of his compositions have been used for mainstream purposes such as=advertising, it is also familiar even to those who may not realise it.
The dancers are all so elegant and all perform to a high standard, most notably the performers playing Marie, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Nutcracker and the Prince of Pertussis. They spend so much time en pointe that it is almost painful to watch. From the beginning, the scene is set with all the excitement that Christmas can bring and the story flows nicely and is easy to understand throughout Act One.
The costumes are vivid and graceful, each dance complete with its own outfit, from the snowflakes, the party folk to the mice and, of course, all of the dancers showcasing the dances from other countries. It is easy to tell the characters apart (because of course without speech this needs to be obvious) both from their costumes and from the style of each group of toys.
Act Two is a little harder to follow as the story is full of new characters and a lot of different dances; however, as it is all rather dream-like this does not detract from the production and is every bit as beguiling.
The Nutcracker is a truly captivating piece of theatre, a wonderful introduction to ballet for anyone who has never experienced it and still so special to anyone who has. Suitable for all ages, this timeless production is a fantastic way to bring in the festive season.
Reviewed on 25 October 2015. The Nutcracker, together with Swan Lake and Don Quixote, are part of a national tour until 30 November 2015 | Image: Contributed