FLASH SPECIAL: THE NUTCRACKER Is A Mouse-See Special Ballet Event
Today we are highlighting one of the most celebrated and cherished ballets ever composed, now, more than 120 years after its premiere - the new Fathom Events national movie theater presentation of Tchaikovsky's THE NUTCRACKER performed by the Royal Opera House Ballet.
The Nutcracker Suite
Despite its rather stormy 1892 premiere, Tchaikovsky's THE NUTCRACKER has gone on to become one of the most beloved and ubiquitous ballets produced in the last fifty years, following its brilliant resurgence and re-appreciation beginning in the 1950s. Based on "The Nutcracker And The Mouse King" by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Tchaikovsky took advantage of the Alexandre Dumas adaptation of the children's short story about a girl's journey through a dazzling fantasy land in search of a toy, titled THE TALE OF THE NUTCRACKER. Teaming once again with his visionary collaborator on SLEEPING BEAUTY from two years before, Marius Petipa, Tchaikovsky unfortunately had a more difficult time of his compositional process while working on THE NUTCRACKER, due in no small part to the fact that he was also composing an opera to premiere as part of the double-bill, which would eventually become IOLANTA. Additionally, Petipa was incredibly strict in setting out the parameters of the piece to his musical compatriot - down to the number of bars and even tempi, in many cases - which Tchaikovsky found understandably frustrating and limiting, but which evidently would foster the foundation for many of his most memorable and long-lasting melodies. Despite the final result having great resonance for modern audiences, the original premiere was plagued with production problems - none the least of which being Pepita himself falling ill during preparatory rehearsals with choreographic control falling to his assistant, Lev Ivanov, though who exactly staged what is still debated and discussed to this day by ballet buffs.
Although Tchaikovsky's score was praised by critics at the time for its lushness and epic scope, many generally found the piece less than successful in its first production, lobbing cruel pans to many of the lead performers and bemoaning the unusual framing device ("Insipid," to wit, included) suggested by the source material - to say nothing of the general distaste expressed for the use of actual children onstage, an anamoly for the period; an interesting and revealing insight into theatre history in itself, particularly given the preponderance of pre-pubescence on Broadway these days, on display in Current Productions of ANNIE, A CHRISTMAS STORY and MATILDA, to cite but a few recent examples of kid-themed family-friendly fare.
But, those classic characters and the unforgettable story and score of THE NUTCRACKER lure us back, time and time again - the magical Sugar Plum Fairy, the terrifying Mouse King, the good-hearted Clara and the eponymous wooden soldier himself have bolstered the reputation of the initially misunderstood ballet since its inception and initial reception well over a century ago. Although the first production of the piece in the United States was not until 1944, unbelievably, it was not until ten years later, when iconic director George Balanchine created his production of it for the New York City Ballet, where it has been presented annually ever since, that the ballet reached major prominence in the United States. On that note, since the 1960s, THE NUTCRACKER has been more popular than in any other segment of history and many of the world's most artistically daring and critically revered directors of last century and this century have adapted it or taken it on fully - among them, Yuri Grigorovich for the Bolshoi Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov for the American Ballet Theater as well as InDepth InterView participant Matthew Bourne (interview available here) in addition to Peter Wright, who has helmed the new Royal Opera House Ballet production coming to movie theaters next week.
Given the real-world framing device and the far-out fantasyland ala THE WIZARD OF OZ within it, Tchaikovsky's THE NUTCRACKER virtually and sonically has more magic per minute than many - dare I say any - other holiday entertainments available and for many of us around the world no Christmas is truly complete without a trip to the Land Of Sweets and a view or two of the one and only Sugar Plum Fairy and collective crew - plus, that titular toy, too. Indeed, 1892 or 2013, great art remains great and the new Fathom presentation of THE NUTCRACKER is undoubtedly a mouse-see event on par with the finest entertainment available, now or then.
More information on Fathom's presentation of THE NUTCRACKER on December 17 is available at the official site here.
So, now, let's take a look at some of the most memorable iterations of Tchaikovsky's THE NUTRCRACKER and preview the new Fathom special event presentation of the Royal Opera House Ballet's production next week.
First up, here is the trailer for Fathom's presentation of Tchaikovsky's THE NUTCRACKER.
Noted prima ballerina Wendy Whelan performs the "Arabian Dance" from THE NUTCRACKER in this clip featuring George Balanchine's original choreography for the New York City Ballet premiere.
The Kirov Ballet stages Tchaikovsky and Petipa's forerunner to THE NUTCRACKER, the audacious and sweeping SLEEPING BEAUTY, in this 1989 filmed performance of the ballet.
Following that, catch a peek of the most recent film version of the timeless story in the form of THE NUTCRACKER 3D, directed by Andrei Konchalovsky and featuring Nathan Lane.
No NUTCRACKER clip collection could be complete without this - enjoy the legendary NUTCRACKER sequence from Disney's animation accomplishment for the ages, FANTASIA!
Continuing on the animation theme, don't miss THE SIMPSONS giving a wink and a nudge to Tchaikovsky with this memorable NUTCRACKER homage.
As a special treat, take in last year's production of THE NUTCRACKER as presented by Fathom courtesy of the Mariinsky Ballet Theatre.
Lastly, peruse choreographic master Matthew Bourne's wholly unique take on THE NUTCRACKER.
So, what exactly is it about the fantastical story, sweeping romance and otherworldly mystery of THE NUTCRACKER that allows it to so effortlessly endure more than a hundred years after its premiere production? More to the point, what is your personal favorite production of all? Furthermore, what moment are you looking forward to most in next week's Fathom Events movie theater presentation of Tchaikovsky's masterpiece? After all, it is a definite mouse-see event and shall unquestionably be much, much more than it is cracked up to be.