BWW Review: THE NUTCRACKER, Royal Opera House
Lucky Londoners have the opportunity to catch three different productions of The Nutcracker over the festive period this year. But having viewed Sir Peter Wright's 1984 production for the Royal Ballet multiple times, and once again now, it unmistakably offers the most gloriously opulent and satisfying experience that sets it apart from other interpretations.
In a Nutcracker that has numerous highlights, it's a challenge to pick out specifics, but the cosy party scene is well staged and full of thoughtful details that refresh the well-known opening section - and Julia Trevelyan's growing Christmas tree is as resplendent and impressive as ever.
Anna Rose O'Sullivan is a delightful Clara, with wonderfully vibrant dancing and an assured technique. She conveys Clara's fascination and excitement with her Nutcracker doll with childlike innocence. She's partnered enthusiastically by the ever-charismatic rising star of the company, Marcelino Sambé, who effortlessly fulfils this leading role with boundless energy and boyish good charm. Together, they are a golden partnership who draw the audience into the story as if for the first time.
The magical journey to the Land of Snow is still enchanting. The glittering snowflakes are well drilled, moving seamlessly en masse as Tchaikovsky's score builds to the climax of the first act.
Let's not pretend we're all here for anything other than the iconic pas de deux from the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince, however. On this opening night, the honour could not fall to safer hands than those of Marianela Nunez and Vadim Muntagirov. Nunez must tire of reading such consistently glowing reviews of her work, but her dancing is always so well pitched, the joy exudes from every step, that she is becoming critic-proof. Here we have yet another role she just "gets".
She takes her sweet time through the wonderful poses and holds throughout the demanding pas de deux, and Muntagirov's confident partnering showcases this further. He follows this up with endless silky-smooth jetés that circle the stage as Clara and Hans-Peter watch on in wonder.
It would be wrong to summarise the action without mentioning Gary Avis in his signature role of Herr Drosselmeyer. He leads the proceedings in commanding but hearty style, bringing an great overall warmth to the production. Christmas would not be Christmas without him descending onto the stage in a cloud of glitter.
At just over two hours long, The Nutcracker flies by, and tickets sell so quickly you might have to wait another year to catch it again. But for dancing this life-affirming, it's always worth it.
The Nutcracker runs at the Royal Opera House until 15 January, 2019
Image credit: Alastair Muir