Performance History and the St. Petersburg Premiere The first performance of the Christmas ballet was held as a double premiere together with Tchaikovsky’s last opera, Iolanta, around the Christmas holiday season on December 18 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is generally agreed that Lev Ivanov, Second Balletmaster to the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, worked closely with Marius Petipa, Premier Maître de Ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres and widely regarded as the Father of Russian Ballet, to create the holiday ballet. It was conducted by Riccardo Drigo, with Antoinetta Dell-Era as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Pavel Gerdt as her Prince, Stanislava Belinskaya as Clara/Masha, Sergei Legat as the Nutcracker Prince, and Timofei Stukolkin as Uncle Drosselmeyer. More about Tchaikovsky’s classic ‘Nutcracker’ score
In Europe and the U.S.The Christmas ballet was first performed outside Russia in England in 1934. Its first United States performance was in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet, staged by its artistic director and Balanchine student Willam Christensen. The New York City Ballet first performed George Balanchine’s Nutcracker in 1954 but the holiday ballet did not begin to achieve its great popularity until after the George Balanchine staging became a hit in New York City. The now well known Christmas story has been published in many book versions including colorful children-friendly ones. The plot revolves around a German girl named Clara Stahlbaum and her coming-of-age one Christmas holiday. In Hoffmann’s tale, the girl’s name is Marie or Maria, while Clara – or “Klärchen” – is the name of one of her dolls. In the Great Russian Nutcracker, she is affectionately called Masha.
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Composition HistoryTchaikovsky accepted the commission from director of Moscow’s Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, writing to a friend while composing the ballet, “I am daily becoming more and more attuned to my task.” While composing the music for the charming Christmas story, Tchaikovsky is said to have argued with a friend who wagered that the composer could not write a melody based on the notes of the octave in sequence. Tchaikovsky asked if it mattered whether the notes were in ascending or descending order, and was assured it did not. This resulted in the Grand Adage from the Grand Pas de Deux of the second act where Clara/Masha dances with her magical Christmas present, the Nutcracker Prince. Among other things, the score of The Nutcracker is noted for its use of the celesta, an instrument that the composer had already employed in his much lesser known symphonic ballad, The Voyevoda (premiere 1891). Although well-known in The Nutcracker as the featured solo instrument in the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Act II, it is also employed elsewhere in the same act.
NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet includes other unique elements in the telling of the traditional holiday tale. Set in the magical past of a far off Victorian capitol, the city’s famous scintillating skyline is featured as a backdrop. Folk characters present in all European cultures Father Christmas and Snow Maiden escort Clara and the Nutcracker Prince to their dream world in Act II.
Finally the “Dove of Peace,” exclusive to NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet, welcomes the couple to the “Land of Peace and Harmony” traditionally called “The Land of Sweets.” The “Dove of Peace” was inspired by performances of Stanislov Vlasov, former Bolshoi Ballet dancer and choreographer/ballet master of NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet’s inaugural 1993 North American tour, and partner Lilia Sabitova, People’s Artist.
“The ballet style is elegant, expansive, brimful with feeling, knockout male dancer…confers an unusual thrill, and…Kids…were wide-eyed with delight,” The New York Times, Alastair Macaulay, Chief Dance Critic
“Perhaps one of the most magical moments of all, was delivered by a truly excellent Snow Forest corps, a veritable highlight excelling in both synchrony and grace. Both male and female corps were outstanding all night.” Calgary Herald, Stephan Bonfield
“Acclaimed dancers Anatolie Ustimov and Alisa Voronova…lead a cast of traditionalists who treat theNUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet as the spectacular, globe-spanning institution that it is.” Denver Post, John Wenzel
“…lively and resourceful with an unusual array of bright, painted backdrops adding to the Christmas cheer…disarmingly poetic…faultless mastery of the steps…bravura expertise.” – Los Angeles Times 2013