Do you love watching the Nutcracker Suite with friends and family members? Each year, performances of this famous ballet are held all around the world. The ballet tells the story of a young girl who is given a magical nutcracker on Christmas Eve.
This well-known Christmas story is one of the most popular ballets in the world. While millions of people are familiar with the story, there are facts surrounding the story that remain a mystery to many. So, let’s discover some little known facts about the Nutcracker Suite and Tchaikovsky…
The Nutcracker Suite is based on German Folklore
Nutcrackers have been given to German children at Christmas time for several centuries. This is because there is a belief that nutcrackers protect the family and bring good luck to the home. The Nutcracker Suite takes this folklore practice as its inspiration.
The Story Was Not Intended for Children
The Nutcracker Suite is based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffman called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. This story is much darker than the ballet and features a gory battle between the Mouse King’s army and the Nutcracker. It also revealed the backstory of how the prince became transformed into a nutcracker.
E.T.A. Hoffman was interested in exploring and revealing the dark side of human nature. Later, prolific French author Dumas wrote a lighter version of the story. Choreographer Petipa recognized that the story would appeal to children and chose to adopt this version.
About the Celesta
The delicate and ethereal sound of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy piece was composed on the celesta. This instrument was discovered by Tchaikovsky in Paris, and he smuggled it into Russia. He used this instrument to represent the voice of the Sugar Plum Fairy to make it distinctive.
The celesta is a relative of the piano and was a children’s toy. When it was decided to render the ballet for children, other children’s toys were also used to make the music.
The Nutcracker Premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892
The first performance was held on December 18, 1892, at the Mariinsky Theatre. It was accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s one-act opera Iolanta. Ivan Alexandrovitch Vsevolojsky was responsible for gathering and securing the artists and talent involved in creating the ballet.
Tchaikovsky Did Not Like the Score at First
Tchaikovsky finished composing the score for The Nutcracker in 1892. At first, he believed that the music was “infinitely poorer” than his other scores, especially Sleeping Beauty. The Nutcracker was the last of three ballets by Tchaikovsky, with the first being Swan Lake.
Little Known Facts about the Nutcracker Suite and Tchaikovsky – The Ballet was not an Instant Hit
When it was first performed in Russia, many critics agreed with Tchaikovsky. In fact, the ballet did not begin to become popular until the 1950s. Sadly, Tchaikovsky died without knowing the impact that The Nutcracker would have on the world.
Two Different Choreographers Created The Nutcracker
Petipa was the original choreographer of The Nutcracker, but he became seriously ill. His assistant Lev Ivanov took up the mantle and completed the choreography. Because they had been working closely for seven years, their styles were almost identical.
The Very First Performers Were Children
The roles of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince were played by children in the first performance of The Nutcracker. Antoinetta Dell-Era played the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Pavel Gerdt played her prince, while Stanislava Belinskaya played Clara/Masha. The first performance was conducted by Riccardo Drigo, while Timofei Stukolkin played Uncle Drosselmeyer.
The First Full-Length Production Was in the USA
The Nutcracker’s first performance outside Russia was in England in 1934. However, the performance was condensed. The first full-length production was held in 1944 at the San Francisco Opera Ballet and was directed by William Christensen.
Great Nutcracker Suite Gifts
All of this talk about the Nutcracker Suite has probably made you want to go and see the classical ballet. But it may not be possible to head out to the ballet right now. However, there are some great gifts that will bring the magic of The Nutcracker Suite to your home.
This colorful music box makes the perfect Christmas present and shows Clara unwrapping her present. Simply wind up the music box, and it will play The Nutcracker Suite. The Clara figurine and the nutcracker rotate as the music plays.
Your house will be full of magic and music when you own this stirring CD. This audio CD is represented in English and boasts all the famous scores from the ballet. As an added bonus, it also comes with the scores from Swan Lake to make a true Christmas extravaganza.
In addition to playing music, this magical music box lights up to celebrate the Christmas period. The music box features a festive scene and plays the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The ballerinas on the water theatre stage rotate as the music plays, while the music box is set on a timer.
This Christmas tree ornament features Clara clutching her precious nutcracker figurine. The ornament has been made from resin and hangs from a gold string that is easy to attach to branches. It measures 4.6 inches tall, and there are several other Nutcracker Suite ornaments to collect.
Want to learn more about your favorite composers?
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Little Known Facts about the Nutcracker Suite and Tchaikovsky – Final Thoughts
People of all ages get captivated by the magic of the Nutcracker Suite. Even if you are not a fan of ballet, it is impossible not to get swept up in the enchantment. As a result, the ballet and its score have been popular for more than a century.
Taking your family to a performance of The Nutcracker Suite is the perfect way to celebrate Christmas. Even if you cannot get to the theatre, watching a performance on the small screen brings Christmas to life. This is a real bonding experience that children love indulging in with their parents and their grandparents.
Enjoy the magic of music.