Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Magic of the Season

A time honoured Christmas tradition in my family was attending the ballet production of The Nutcracker.

The following videos are scenes from The Nutcracker performed by the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg.

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman. When the ballet was choreographed by Marius Petipa, it was based on a revision by Alexander Dumas with the orchestra music by Tchaikovsky. Although what is seen on the stage today is different in detail from the original story, the basic plot remains the same: the story of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King.

The story begins on Christmas Eve at a large and grand house with the most beautiful tree imaginable where the Stahlbaums are hosting their annual Christmas party, welcoming the arrival of their family and friends. The children, Clara and Fritz, are dancing and playing when their godfather, Drosselmeyer, arrives. He is a skilled clock and toy maker and always full of surprises.

The children begin to open gifts when Drosselmeyer presents his to Clara and Fritz. Although his gift to Fritz is quite nice, he gives Clara a beautiful Nutcracker that becomes the hit of the party. Fritz becomes jealous, grabs the nutcracker from Clara and promptly breaks it. Clara is heartbroken looking on as Drosselmeyer quickly repairs the Nutcracker with a handkerchief he magically draws from the air.

As the evening grows late, the guests depart and the Stahlbaum family retires for the evening. Clara, worried about her beloved Nutcracker, sneaks back to the tree to check on him, falling asleep with him in her arms.

As the clock strikes midnight strange things begin to happen. Clara begins shrinking as her beautiful Christmas tree grows high above her. The toys around the tree come to life while the room fills with an army of mice, lead by the fierce Mouse King. As the Nutcracker awakens, he leads his army of toy soldiers into battle with the mice. The Mouse King corners the Nutcracker and battles him one-on-one. The Nutcracker seems to be no match for the Mouse King.

The Nutcracker and his army can go on no longer and are captured by the mice and their King. Clara makes a final daring charge throwing her slipper at the Mouse King, hitting him square on the head. The Mouse King drops to the floor and the mice run away, carrying off their leader's lifeless body.

The Nutcracker turns into a Prince and takes Clara on a journey to the Land of Snow, an enchanted forest wonderland where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes.

The Prince escorts Clara to the Land of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Prince tells her about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of different dances.

Sugar Plum Fairy

As a finale, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier dance a beautiful Pas De Deux.

Clara wakes up the next morning under the Christmas tree with her Nutcracker still in her arms.


Reader Wil said...

I also love the Nutcracker's suite. Thank you for sharing this wonderful ballet and music.
I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy2009.

debra said...

This brings back memories to me too, Barbara. My sister and I would dance in front of the glass doors of the china cabinet, as visions of the nutcracker danced in our heads.
Happy holidays to you and your family, Barbara.

BernardL said...

Very beautiful, Merry Christmas, Barbara!

J. L. Krueger said...

We used to take our kids to "The Nutcracker" at Christmas time too. Now that they are big sophisticated teenagers, they think it's silly. GRRR!

Barbara Martin said...

The Nutcracker allows adults to remember their youth, and J.L., your teenagers will reach an age when they, too, recall, the wonders of this musical tale and take renewed delight.

Barrie said...

And guess what was a childhood tradition in our family? Going to see The Nutcracker Suite!!! This post brought back memories.

amy said...

Merry Christmas, Barbara! My daughter & I went to see the Nutcracker; it has become a tradition =-)

Joy to you and yours in 2009!

Merisi said...

Beautiful selection, Barbara,
thank you! :-)
I love the Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker, their performance and costums are so outstanding, I cannot imagine anyone topping that. My children also love The American Ballet Theater version, from 1977, with Mikhail Baryshnikov. I am amazed that the video is still functioning, it has been played over and over again through the years. My oldest saw this performance on PBS, when she was three or four, and simply fell in love with Mikhail. She had been taking pre-ballet lessons since the age of two.

I did not attend any performance of the Nutcracker during this holiday season. I did see the Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre perform "Swan Lake" this summer, here in V.

Happy holidays,
and a happy New Year!

Britta Coleman said...

Merry Christmas! Seeing the Nutcracker is one of our traditions, too. My daughter, my mother, my sister and I all saw the Moscow Ballet in Dallas this year. It was lovely.