The all-time favourite Christmas ballet the Nutcracker has long become the performance which, irrespective of the season, creates an atmosphere of a magic holiday and fairytale-like changes. A wonderful story about a handsome Prince transformed into an ugly doll and a kind girl Masha, who helps the Nutcracker defeat the horrible Mouse King and find happiness, invariably attracts both children and adults.
The music of this ballet has been well-known to everybody since an early age and sometimes it is difficult to imagine how innovative the Nutcracker score was for its time. Tchaikovsky greatly expanded the sphere of character dances: here we can see both a gallery of children’s vivid portraits (no wonder that his ballet is often called “a symphony of childhood”), fantastic images of toys and mice, and the Confiturenburg luxurious sweets parade. There is an enormous gap between the old ballet national “pas” traditions and the suite of tasty drinks that the audience is treated to in the Second Act: thick Spanish scalding chocolate; Arabic coffee the music of which seems to enveil the stage with aromatic steam; delicate as the Chinese ceremony tea.
In the Nutcracker the composer made an exceptionally generous gift to the artists: he personified not only human characters but also some things which makes it possible to engage the whole cast in the performance and to turn it into the triumph of corp-de-ballet. Special mention should be made of the ballet’s ingenious orchestration, for example, for the scene of the war between mice and toy soldiers with the roll of small drums, sounds of toy military fanfares, flickering of mice scurrying about and squeaking. The gem of the Nutcracker’ score is the Sugar Plum Fairy’s crystal-like dance in which Tchaikovsky for the first time in Russian music used a celesta - an instrument with a transparent, “thawing” and a truly mesmerizing timbre which had been invented only a few years earlier. Still, the main secret of the success of the Nutcracker music lies in the fact that just like its plot it possesses the unspoilt freshness and the youthfulness that never fail to fascinate and to be liked. Of all Tchaikovsky’s ballets the Nutcracker has probably had the largest number of interpretations with various emphases. The Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre presents it in the expressive Eldar Aliev’s choreography based on the original scenario by Marius Petipa. This ballet is a real New Year Eve extravaganza with brilliant costumes and scenery, full of bursts of children’s rosy-cheeked laughter and a pine scent of the holiday tree.