Enjoying The Nutcracker and its history

love-opera-victoria-bakerLast Christmas I saw the Washington Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker. It was the best version I’ve ever seen.

It was two days before Christmas and the energy in the theater was electric. I’ve never felt an audience so ecstatic about what was happening on stage!.

It was an all-American Nutcracker set in 1882 Georgetown with cherry blossoms all over the stage and George Washington himself as the Nutcracker! Septime Webre did the choreography and it was magical, it really will lift your spirits. I can’t recommend it enough, if you can catch one of their performances you’ll be glad you did! For more information log onto www.washingtonballet.org

But it really doesn’t matter which version of this classic ballet you see because each has something unique to offer. Over 100 years old, The Nutcracker Ballet was first presented at the Mayinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 17, 1892. Peter Tchaikovsky, the famous Russian composer, was commissioned by mastermind choreographer Marius Petipa to compose the ballet; the musical score was based on Alexandre Dumas’s adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

Like all masterful works of art, the first production of The Nutcracker was a failure. Neither the critics nor the audience liked it. Even though Czar Alexander III was delighted with the ballet, The Nutcracker was not an overnight success. Tchaikovsky himself did not much like the ballet.

He reportedly wrote to a friend that the music he was writing was not as good as the music for his previous ballet, Sleeping Beauty. Tchaikovsky may not have loved his own music but generations of ballet goers have fallen in love with his melodies countless times.

Despite all this, the ballet gained popularity with future productions, especially in the United States. The first U.S. performance was by the San Francisco Opera Ballet in 1944. By changing a few characters, infamous choreographer George Balanchine brought new life to The Nutcracker. His 1954 production for the New York City Ballet popularized the ballet, establishing it as a classic holiday tradition.Many of the versions of The Nutcracker performed today are based on the original version created by George Balanchine.

Take your children to see The Nutcracker or make it a romantic evening at the Ballet, just remember that this is a classic work of art you’ll never grow tired of…it’s like the Mona Lisa, we never get bored of her! We love the Nutcracker for all the reasons we love Christmas- it brings the child out in all of us. And just for a little while it becomes alright for us to believe in fairy tales and miracles.

If only we could make the Holiday spirit last all year round.


Victoria Baker, of Greenwich, is an opera singer. Winner of many prestigious competitions, she has performed and worked with distinguished artists all over the world (notably at Lincoln Center). Should you have any questions that deserve answers and may be in print please call 203-531-7499 or e-mail [email protected]

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