The ballet “The Nutcracker” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky has been exciting the senses and imagination of adults and children who want to experience the atmosphere of a fairy tale, amazing images and enchanting music for more than 120 years.
After the premiere of the ballet, music critics did not like the “Nutcracker”because it did not fit the classical canons of the ballet at the time. However, it didn’t prevent this Russian ballet to go down in history as one of the most brilliant and beautiful works. A wonderful Christmas fairy tale to this day gathers full houses of spectators, who are always delighted with the performance. Like any other great works, the ballet has its secretsand mysteries.
Facts from the history of “The Nutcracker”
- The ballet owes its birth to another very popular work of the Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky – “Sleeping Beauty”. The premiere of “Sleeping Beauty” was held just 3 years before the emergence of “The Nutcracker” and had such a resounding successthat the director of the Imperial Theatres of Russia – Ivan Vsevolozhsky – decided to order another ballet from the composer.
- The music for the brilliant ballet “The Nutcracker” was written by composer Peter Tchaikovsky in just a few months, and the composer spent a lot more time on combining the musical score with a libretto by Marius Petipa.
- On the day of the premiere in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, for the first time a new musical instrument was used – the celesta that was secretly brought from Paris by the composer Tchaikovsky. Celesta looks similar to a miniature piano, and it sounds like bells.
- Children’s roles in “The Nutcracker” in the first act, Clara and Fritz, which are today performed by young adults during performances at the Mariinsky Theatre, back in the 19th century,were performed by children – students of the Imperial School of Theatre. The girl who performed Clara was 12 years old, and the boy who performed the Nutcracker was 17.
- Only the world famous pas de deux and the “Buffon Dance” from the ballet “The Nutcracker” were able to reach our time in their original form. All other scenes from the famous Russian ballet have undergone significant changes.
- In 1993, due to the immense popularity of “The Nutcracker” in America, the famous Russian ballet was filmed as a movie. The role of the Nutcracker performed a student from a ballet school Macaulay Culkin. Today in the United States before Christmas there are about 150 simultaneous interpretations of “The Nutcracker.”
Mystery of the stunning popularity of the ballet “The Nutcracker”
The music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky caused mixed reactions from critics. Firstly, symphonic music was not very comfortable for choreographies, and secondly, complex dramatic sound and a simple, at first glance, children’s story did not really tie together. Yet, “The Nutcracker” had such a huge success with the audiences.
It was no coincidence that Tchaikovsky picked the fairy tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” as a plot for his new ballet. Seemingly “simple” Christmas taleby Hoffmann in essence is similar to a Russian doll – matryoshka, where inside one storyline there is another, more profound one. Additionally, the events unfoldin several realities at the same time: in waking, in sleeping and in a fairy tale city.
In the fairy tale by Hoffmann the battle of mice and soldiers was a hint of an invasion by Napoleon. And Marius Petipa, who created the libretto, also wanted to reflect in the ballet the motives of the French Revolution using a variety of metaphors and parables.
Hoffmann can hardly be called a children’s writer, because in the background of simple images you can clearly see a line of mysticism and tragedy of human relations. The same line of struggle and inner experiences like a leitmotif runs through the music of Peter Tchaikovsky. In these multifaceted images, unsaid words, mysterious turns of the story and the heat of passion, as if hovering in the air, lies the secret of popularity of the world-famous ballet “The Nutcracker” – a simple Christmas tale with a complicated history, in which each viewer can find something close to their heart .
Only in the 20th century people were able to appreciate the deep philosophical meaning of this fairy taleand its music, and unravel the mystery of the immense popularity of the ballet, calling Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s the greatest innovator of Russian ballet.