THE NUTCRACKER

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Fantasy ballet in two acts and four scenes

About ballet «The Nutcracker»

Pyotr Tchaikovsky is regarded as a genius composer managed to change the whole sense of ballet music. He has creatively understood and approached the problem of ballet, therefore reforming the traditional basis of this genre. Tchaikovsky has shown the way to ballet symphonization, witnessed in his Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. However The Nutcracker, No. 1 Christmas ballet, is obviously his best ballet, his testament teaching loyalty and dedication. Every sound brings lust for life and happiness, love and humanity.

After the success of The Sleeping Beauty, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the director of the Imperial Theatres, commissioned Tchaikovsky to compose a double-bill program featuring both an opera and a ballet. The opera would be Iolanta. It was supposed to be richly decorated ballet featuring foreign prima and new original findings in costumes and stage sets.
For the ballet, Tchaikovsky would again join forces with Marius Petipa, who chose an adaptation of Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The first performance of the ballet was held as a double premiere together with Tchaikovsky’s last opera, Iolanta, on 6 December 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. The children’s roles, unlike many later productions, were performed by real children rather than adults (as Marie and Fritz), students of Imperial Ballet School.

Although the libretto was by Marius Petipa, who exactly choreographed the first production has been debated. Petipa began work on the choreography in August 1892; however, illness removed him from its completion and his assistant of seven years, Lev Ivanov, was brought in. Tchaikovsky’s music was too complicated for the ballet and choreographer’s ideas couldn’t keep pace with it.

Later many Russian choreographers staged new productions of The Nutcracker: Alexander Gorsky, Fedor Lopuhov, Vasiliy Vainonen, Yuriy Grigorovich, Igor Belsky, Igor Chernyshev. They staged versions of the work that addressed many of the criticisms of the original production paying more attention to music, esthetics and demands. Tchaikovsky’s score has become one of his most famous compositions, in particular written for balletMany choreographers endeavored to make the ballet dancing equal to the music as regards its complexity and eccentricity, though even today The Nutcracker remains alluring for choreographers of 21 st century.

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 Chinese dolls in «The Nutcracker» ballet. 1892

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Libretto

Act I

It is Christmas Eve at the house of Herr and Frau Stahlbaum and their children. Family and friends have gathered in the parlor to decorate the beautiful Christmas tree in preparation for the night’s festivities. Once the tree is finished, the younger children are sent for; among them are Marie, the Stahlbaums’ daughter, and her brother Fritz. The children stand in awe of the tree sparkling with candles and decorations. The festivities begin. A march is played on the piano. Presents are given out to the children.

Suddenly, as the owl-topped clock strikes eight, a mysterious figure enters the room. It is Herr Drosselmeyer, a local councilman and Marie and Fritz’s godfather. He is also a talented toymaker who has brought with him gifts for the children, including four lifelike dolls – a Harlequin and Columbine, and a Vivandière and Soldier – who dance to the delight of all. Herr Stahlbaum has the precious dolls put away for safekeeping.

Marie and Fritz are sad to see the dolls taken away, but Herr Drosselmeyer has yet another toy for them: a wooden nutcracker carved in the shape of a little man, used for cracking hazelnuts. The children are delighted. Marie immediately takes a liking to it. Fritz, however, tries to use the nutcracker to crack a walnut (too large and hard for its wooden jaw) and inadvertently breaks it. Marie is heartbroken.
Marie takes the wounded toy to her doll’s bed, lulling it to sleep. The boys interrupt with their toy trumpets and horns. Herr and Frau Stahlbaum announce it is time to finish off the evening with a traditional Grandfather dance. After the dance, the guests depart, and the children are sent off to bed.

During the night, after everyone else has gone to bed, Marie returns to the parlor to check on her beloved nutcracker. As she reaches the little bed, the clock strikes midnight and she looks up to see her Godfather Drosselmeyer perched atop the clock in place of the owl. Suddenly, mice begin to fill the room and the Christmas tree begins to grow to dizzying heights. The Nutcracker also grows to life-size. Marie finds herself in the midst of a battle between an army of gingerbread soldiers and the mice, led by the Mouse King. The mice begin to eat the gingerbread soldiers.

The Nutcracker appears to lead the gingerbread soldiers, who are joined by tin soldiers and dolls (who serve as doctors to carry away the wounded). As the Mouse King advances on the still-wounded Nutcracker, Marie throws her slipper at him, distracting him long enough for the Nutcracker to stab him.

The mice retreat and the Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome Prince. He leads Marie through the moonlit night to a pine forest in which the snowflakes dance around them.

Act II

Marie and the Prince travel in a nutshell boat pulled by dolphins to the beautiful Land of Sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Prince’s place until his return. However they are followed by mice headed by the Mouse King. All at once they attack Marie and Prince who fights with them. Marie and the dolls are frightened. The Prince finally wins and everybody celebrates his great victory. The dolls are dancing, Marie and Price are on top of the world from happiness – they are in the kingdom of dreams.

The captivating pair dances lighter than air. This beautiful dance completes Marie’s most perfect evening. She tells the Nutcracker she wishes the adventure would never end and he tells her it won’t for those who have an eye to see it. But it appears to be just a dream, a beautiful dream. Marie wakes up the next morning under the Christmas tree with her Nutcracker still in her arms.

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