?ABOUT THE NUTCRACKER
With a libretto adapted from Alexander Dumas’ interpretation of E. T. A. Hoffmann's 1816 short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King", The Nutcracker is an 1892 two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Despite initial disinterest in the ballet from both critics and the public, it has since become Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballet, as well as one of the most famous ballets of all time. It has gained most popularity since the 1960s and at Christmastime, it has become a tradition for many families to see their annual performance of The Nutcracker.
It is Christmas Eve in the Stahlbaum household and the family is hosting its annual Christmas party. Their grand house is decorated beautifully and festively with a large and twinkling Christmas tree. After eagerly awaiting the party’s guests, the Stahlbaum children, Clara and Fritz, welcome their friends, singing and dancing as they go. Amid the laughter and merriment, a dark and mysterious guest arrives. His presence frightens Fritz but Clara is unafraid, recognizing him as their Godfather Drosselmeyer, the toymaker. A remarkable and unpredictable man, Drosselmeyer has many tricks up his sleeve as a skilled clock and toymaker and he is excitedly welcomed by the children and other guests, who are wowed by two life-sized dolls that he has brought to dance with everybody.
The guests gather around as Drosselmeyer reveals the gifts that he has brought for the children: china dolls for the girls and bugles for the boys. Fritz receives a drum from his godfather, but it is Clara’s gift from the man that becomes the talk of the party: an exquisite nutcracker. Jealous, Fritz steals the nutcracker from her and throws it about with the other boys at the party, breaking it. A heartbroken and distraught Clara is placated when Drosselmeyer plucks a handkerchief from the air, as if by magic, and fixes the nutcracker with it.
As the night draws on, the children become tired and the guests begin to leave. Once everyone has gone to bed, Clara creeps downstairs to sneak one last look at her nutcracker, who was laid under the Christmas tree to convalesce in a bed made by Drosselmeyer’s nephew. She cradles the nutcracker in her arms and falls asleep under the Christmas tree.
When Clara awakes, at the stroke of midnight, she becomes frightened by the strange scene unfolding around her. Suddenly, the Christmas tree appears to grow much, much larger and the toys surrounding it begin to come to life. The room begins to fill with a large number of mice, led by the Mouse King. Meanwhile, Clara’s nutcracker has also come to life and is leading an army of toy soldiers into battle against the mice. The Nutcracker soon becomes cornered by the Mouse King and, being no match for him, is overpowered by his strength. As his army is captured by the rest of the mice, the Nutcracker is saved by Clara, who throws a slipper at the Mouse King’s head in a bid to draw him away. The Mouse King is stunned by the shoe and collapses. The mouse army leaves, carrying their king to safety.
Exhausted from the skirmish, Clara falls onto the Nutcracker’s bed. Once again, there is a magical transformation as the bed becomes a sleigh and the Nutcracker becomes a human prince (who bears a striking resemblance to Drosselmeyer’s nephew).
Together, Clara and the Prince travel to the Land of Sweets, where everything is sugar-spun confectionery. There, they meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, to whom they recount the evening’s events. In honor of their bravery, the Sugar Plum Fairy throws a festival inside the palace, presenting them with every sweet imaginable.
Soon, the dancing begins. First off, Hot Cocoa dances a Spanish fandango to the sound of trumpets and castanets. Next, come the veiled women of Coffee from Arabia, Mandarin tea from China dancing to an Asian flute chorus, lively Russian candy canes, and finally, Mother Ginger of the gingerbread house with her eight little gingerbread children, who dance in a circle around her. This is followed by a waltzing, mesmerizing string of flowers, moving to perhaps the most beautiful music Clara has ever heard. For the grand finale, the Cavalier appears and invites the Sugar Plum Fairy to dance with him. Together, they perform a captivating pas de deux, bringing Clara’s most wonderful evening to a close. By way of saying goodbye, the sweets all perform one final waltz together. It is time for Clara and her Nutcracker to leave on the sleigh, waving to all the people they met in the Land of Sweets.
A sleepy Clara awakens under the Christmas tree with the nutcracker in her arms, filled with wonder, never knowing if it was all a dream or if, in fact, it was the magic of Christmas come to life...