Every year Ovation television station airs a “Battle of the Nutcrackers.” The channel features a different production of the Nutcracker every week in December and viewers are invited to vote for their favorite rendition online. Our library has several versions of the ballet available in its collection, so you can have your very own battle of the Nutcrackers!
The Nutcracker Ballet was based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” It was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and it was first performed at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg in December 1892. The Nutcracker Ballet tells the story of a young girl, Clara, whose godfather, Drosselmeyer, gives her a Nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. That night, Clara has a dream in which her Nutcracker fights off a gang of mice and then turns into a handsome prince. He then takes her to the Sugar Plum Fairy’s kingdom, where they are entertained by her subjects. The ballet usually ends when Clara wakes up on Christmas morning to find that it has all been a dream.
I have seen many versions of the Nutcracker both on stage and on TV, and the staging that wins my personal “Battle of the Nutcrackers” is the 1977 made-for-TV adaptation, which was originally choreographed by Mikhail Baryshnikov for the American Ballet Theatre in 1976. Gelsey Kirkland was cast as Clara and Baryshnikov reprised his stage role as the Nutcracker / Prince. Luckily, the library has a copy in our collection.
I have watched this rendition every Christmas for as long as I can remember. I’ve also seen many others on stage and on television, but I have never left the theater or the couch with that magical feeling that I get from the 1977 version. There is something about the choreography, Baryshnikov and Kirkland’s dancing, and of course Tchaikovsky’s score that, all clichs aside, takes my breath away in a way that no other production has ever done.
If you are looking for something to do over the holiday week, come check out some of our Nutcracker DVDs (click here for a link to a list of DVDs and other related Nutcracker items at the library) and hold your own “Battle of the Nutcrackers.” Let me know which one you like the best!
Cover photo: Iohna Loots as Clara in The Nutcracker, ©Johan Persson/ROH 2010 http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/the-nutcracker-by-peter-wright , accessed November 27, 2012