Music- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Libretto by Marius Petipa, based on the story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E. T. A. Hoffmann
Choreography- Lev Ivanov, Vasili Vainonen
Adapted by Valentin Grishchenko
Costumes designer- Yulia Zhuravlyova
Stage designer- Maksim Ushakov
Light designer- Maksim Kuroshou
Ballet in two acts.
Duration: 2 hours 10 minutes (1 intermission).
Premiere: December 6, 1982, Imperial Mariinsky Theater, Saint Petersburg.
The Nutcracker is perhaps Tchaikovsky’s most famous and recognizable score. This ballet is an inextricable element of Christmas and New Year holidays across the globe. It is hard to believe that the creation of this Christmas fairytale began only in 1890, when the Director of the Imperial Theaters asked Tchaikovsky to compose a single-act opera and two-act ballet to be performed in one night. The composer chose E.T.A. Hoffman’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” as a basis. He first composed the plot as told by Ivan Vsevolozhsky, then began to work together with Marius Petipa. Petipa, a renowned master of choreography, provided Tchaikovsky with a detailed plan of the choreographic exposition and advised him on the development of the music.
Shortly after work on The Nutcracker began, Marius Petipa left the project, and the second choreographer of the Mariinsky Theater, Lev Ivanov, was brought in. It was Ivanov who composed the Waltz of the Snowflakes, a piece that is considered to be a true masterpiece to this day. The Nutcracker debuted at the Mariinsky Theater on December 6, 1892. Initially, the performance was panned by critics as they found the level of artistic mastery did not measure up to Tchaikovsky’s complex symphonic music.
A decade passed until major choreographers returned to The Nutcracker. Vasili Vainonen’s 1934 version, staged in the Kirov Theater in Leningrad, utterly outdid the original performance by Petipa and Ivanov. It was Vainonen’s version that became a ballet classic of the 20th century, staged both by acclaimed artists and by students of the Russian Ballet Academy. Moscow first saw The Nutcracker in a 1966 production staged by Yury Grigorovich. Critics agreed that Grigorovich managed to bring a perfect adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s score to life. In the Bolshoi Theater’s version, the first dancers in the roles of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince were the resplendent dancers Ekaterina Maksimova and Vladimir Vasilyev.
Guests have gathered for the New Year’s celebration at the Stahlbaum home. One of them is Drosselmeyer, a magician and storyteller who is a close friend of the Stahlbaum family. The children delightedly await their New Year’s gifts. The Christmas tree is brightly lit, and the holiday ball begins.
As soon as Drosselmeyer steps away from the other guests, the children beg him to show them some magic tricks and new toys. They are in awe of wind-up dolls. He gives Clara a new doll – the silly-looking, cumbersome Nutcracker. Clara’s brother Fritz plays with it. Fritz breaks the Nutcracker, but Drosselmeyer fixes it and dances with Clara again. The soiree comes to an end. After the farewell dance, the guests leave and the children go to bed.
Night. Mystic moonlight illuminates the room. Clara sings a lullaby to her broken doll and falls asleep alongside it. She has a dream that the dolls come to life and the entire world is transformed – things take on new forms, and the Christmas tree grows in size. Suddenly, the room is filled with mice, led by the Mouse King. The dolls and toy soldiers are in disarray. The brave Nutcracker leads an army of dolls into battle with the Mouse King and his retinue. Their forces are unmatched – the mice are winning. However, during the decisive battle, Clara fires a cannon, and the mice flee.
The battlefield is empty, but the brave Nutcracker has died. Clara is devastated. But a miracle occurs: the silly doll becomes a handsome Prince, who brings Clara along with him into a wonderful fairy tale world. The room transforms into a wintry forest. A blizzard begins and snow whirls around, building up drifts of sparkling snowflakes!
Clara and the Nutcracker Prince travel to a fairy tale kingdom, with the Mouse King and his troops in pursuit. The Prince battles with them and emerges victorious. The fairy tale kingdom holds a celebration in his honor. Its residents welcome the couple. Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are full of joy: they have realized that they are in love. Dolls from all around the world come to life and tell the story of their love. Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and French dolls dance before them. New Year’s eve – the last evening of Clara’s childhood – comes to an end. She wakes up in her bedroom and finds the Nutcracker doll, her new beloved toy, and realizes that it was all a wonderful dream…