When Tchaikovsky goes back to the realm of childhood, his music becomes suffused with enchantment and nostalgia as well as with nightmarish terrors. The fruit of one such voyage into the land of the imagination was music of incomparable lyricism and originality, evoking a dreamlike and sometimes disturbing world of whirling snowflakes, myriad flowers and dancing sugar plum fairies, and one of his most fabulous masterpieces. On Christmas Eve, young Clara is given a wooden nutcracker shaped like a little man, which she clutches in her arms before sinking into a deep sleep. She then plunges into a strange dream in which lead soldiers, rats and bats do battle with each other. Guided by her little wooden hussar, now turned into prince charming, Clara overcomes the fears and doubts attendant on her new and previously unknown feelings. In Rudolf Nureyev’s version, this light-hearted tale becomes an initiatory epic. The Nutcracker brings the Company and the pupils of the Ballet School together in a veritable display of bravura.