It's time for classic festive treat The Nutcracker
It’s one of the most popular ballets in the world and for many a much-loved traditional treat.
Full of magic, mystery and romance, The Nutcracker has captured the imagination of generations of theatregoers and continues to attract large audiences across the globe.
Now the famous ballet is being staged at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre where the highly-acclaimed Russian State Ballet and Opera House will be bringing the timeless classic to life.
Based on The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann, it tells the story of Marie, a melancholy little girl, whose godfather Drosselmeyer gives her a nutcracker doll as a present on Christmas Eve.
But the simple wooden nutcracker turns into a prince and the magic starts. After creeping downstairs at midnight to play with her new doll, Marie is swept up by the ultimate Christmas fantasy when her new present comes magically to life.
With the aid of a box full of toy soldiers found under the Christmas tree, the Nutcracker defeats the army of the evil Mouse King who has invaded her house.
Lying mortally wounded after the battle, Marie’s Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince.
He whisks her away through a winter wonderland to the Land of Snow and then on to the Land of Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy entertains them like royalty with festive dances in recognition of the Prince’s heroic defeat of the Mouse King.
This sequence is regarded as one of the finest moments in classical ballet and includes The Spanish Dance, The Arabian Dance, The Russian Dance, The Chinese Dance, The Waltz of the Flowers and The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Nutcracker is one of three ballets being performed by the Russian State Ballet and Opera House during this year’s autumn tour.
The cast of dancers will be accompanied by a large live orchestra with over 30 musicians and be directed and choreographed by former Bolshoi Ballet soloist, Konstantin Uralsky.
“This season we will have three ballet productions, Swan Lake, Nutcracker and Giselle. All three ballets are eternal ballet classics,”says producer Alexej Ignatow, of Amande Concerts Ltd, who has co-ordinated the UK tour.
“With beautiful set and handmade costumes. Altogether, it should be a wonderful evening out, beautiful singing and ‘feast for the eye’ set.
“Classical music is timeless. When performing operas and ballets, it is always exciting to imagine the time when the music was composed, and how it’s still so relevant and enjoyable today.
“I don’t think people will ever get tired of listening to classical music,” he adds.
The Nutcracker saw its first performance on December 18, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg. It was staged alongside Tchaikovsky’s opera, Yolanta.
The full ballet was unknown in western Europe until a production was staged at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London, on January 30, 1934, with Alicia Markova and Stanley Judson
The first full-length production of The Nutcracker in the United States was in 1944 by the San Francisco Opera Ballet under the direction of William Christe.
Since then it has become a universal favourite, especially at Christmas time, with many people enjoying a visit to the theatre in the run up to the festive season.
The Russian State Ballet and Opera House is a showcase for Russian cultural tradition and this year it presenting more than 100 performances as part of their autumn opera and ballet season.
As well as The Nutcracker, they are presenting Swan Lake and Ludwig Minkus’ Don Quixote during the tour.
Swan Lake is a tale of two young women, Odette and Odile, who resemble each other so closely that one can easily be mistaken for the other. It is a compelling legend of a tragic romance in which a princess, Odette, is turned into a swan by an evil curse.
Prince Siegfried chances upon a flock of swans while out hunting. When one of the swans turns into a beautiful young woman he is instantly captivated – as is the audience as they discover whether his love proves strong enough to break the evil spell that she is under.
Don Quixote delights in stories of brave knights, fabulous giants and other fantastical creatures. But most of all, he dreams of his beloved Dulcinea, a woman that he believes to be so lovely and noble that she must be divine. His dreams are of their romantic adventures and love, duels and spectacular choreography are mixed with a dash of Spanish passion in the most beautiful and moving ballet.
“We are constantly on the lookout for new challenges, to ensure that our opera and ballet audiences get a chance to experience a wide spectrum of classic pieces.
“With extensive national tours that get our productions seen the length and breadth of the country, we are able to offer national audiences in various theatres an unforgettable experience at a fraction of the price of major opera houses, all without sacrificing quality. So, continuing to work with theatres all over the UK is very close to my heart. We aim to deliver top quality productions every year and make new converts wherever we go”.
“No experience of ballet is needed to enjoy these classics. Our sets and costume designs, as well as the informative programmes, make the productions very accessible and most of all, enjoyable,” says Alexej.
- The Nutcracker will be performed at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on Monday at 7.30pm. Tickets start at £33 and are available from the box office on 01785 619080 or online via www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk