At this time of year it is hard to find a ballet company that isn’t putting on their annual Nutcracker Production. So, how did the musical work of Tchaikovsky’s end up a Christmas essential?
Firstly, the story - The Nutcracker story centres on a young girl, Clara and her Christmas Eve. Clara creeps downstairs on Christmas Eve to play with her favourite gift, a nutcracker. A mysterious magician, Drosselmeyer, is waiting to whisk her off on a magical adventure. After defeating the villainous Mouse King, Clara and the nutcracker fly on a golden sleigh through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy serves up a dazzling display of dances, including her own. Back at home in bed, Clara is convinced it must all have been a dream. The Nutcracker story is a magical world of young children, parents, toys, Christmas trees, snowflakes and candy, all set to Tchaikovsky’s music - what’s not to love about it?
Whether a dancer or not, The Nutcracker is also the first opportunity for many children to experience ballet and classical music. The Sugar Plum Fairy, what budding ballerina or child doesn’t recognise that magical tune?
So in saying all of that why is The Nutcracker performed at Christmas time? The performance of The Nutcracker at Christmas time is actually a more recent tradition, with the obvious connection being that it is set on Christmas Eve. However, the very first performance of The Nutcracker was in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892 and actually during the Christmas season. It didn’t really take off initially with the public enjoying the story for Act 1 but not the big dance scenes in Act 2. Because of this the first complete performance of the The Nutcracker out of Russia was not until 1934 in London and then the San Francisco ballet performed The Nutcracker on Christmas Eve in 1944. Finally, the annual Christmas Nutcracker tradition really took off in the United States around 1960 and now is what it is today.
Let us know in the comments why you love the story of The Nutcracker…
Team BoPPA x