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The History of the Nutcracker

4 min read

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4 min read


Are you interested in learning more about the history of The Nutcracker? Have you thought about seeing the iconic ballet, but have little knowledge of its origins? Universal ballet companies perform Tchaikovsky’s classic tale annually and has, therefore become a festive tradition throughout the world.

Here is an insight into the captivating history of The Nutcracker and how it came to be the most iconic ballet.

The history of The Nutcracker

Dates back to the 8 December 1892, in St Petersburg, Russia. The original production was entitled ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’. It was adapted from the fictitious tale by German author E.T.A Hoffman with a score by Tchaikovsky.

The Nutcracker wasn’t well-received in the early days

Whilst The Nutcracker is acknowledged as a legendary production in the modern world, it wasn’t always held in such high regard. In 1892, the first showing was deemed a flop and had also been quipped by one critic as ‘lopsided’. Many audience members at the time believed the production was an extremely poor adaption of Hoffman’s original impression. Some weren’t too keen on children being the focus, while others slammed the disruptive flow of the scenes. There were also complaints that the ballerina didn’t make an appearance until the end, in the Grand Pas de Deux.

However, it was these early critical comments that were revolutionary to the history of The Nutcracker and paved the way for significant changes. These amendments then went on to make The Nutcracker the legendary ballet we all know of and love today.

Gaining the world’s attention

The production was also renamed ‘The Story of the Nutcracker’. Despite the setbacks of the early production, it went on to have a successful run in London in 1934. Interestingly, it was Walt Disney, who brought it to the attention of the American audience. He incorporated the entire Tchaikovsky score into his 1940 movie, Fantasia.

A shortened version of the production took place in New York City in 1940 and San Francisco in 1944. Directed by William Christiansen, the full-length 1944 production was the first time America had seen The Nutcracker in its entirety. Christiansen than made a transfer back to New York in 1954. In comparison to Russia fifty years prior, New York audiences packed out the theatre each night with rave reviews.

The Nutcracker has been enjoyed by worldwide audiences since the 1960s. More ballet companies (both professional and amateur; large and small) have performed The Nutcracker than any other ballet production. In 2015, The Nutcracker was streamed to over 2000 cinemas, which showcases that there is still a large draw.

What is it that makes this ballet so popular?

Despite being over 100 years old, The Nutcracker’s family-friendly story is appealable to children and the elderly alike. Alongside the traditional versions, there have also been contemporary takes on the classic story to capture new audiences. Some of the newer adaptions have focused on the likes of LGBT and religion, while a fun-infused hip-hop version has also made its way onto the stage.

Former dancer, Isabel McMeekan claims the successful history of The Nutcracker has lasted throughout the generations for one simple reason. “It’s the eternal fantasy of Christmas come to life on stage…the girl, the guy, the dream, the magic tree that grows to 7 feet, the glittery snowflakes.” She said.

A film version is set to be released this year

The Nutcracker is still such a popular tale, that Disney is set to release a film version at the end of 2018. Entitled The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, it stars the likes of Kiera Knightly, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman. This interesting new adaption will no doubt introduce a whole new audience to the classic story.

A January treat!

The Russian State Ballet return each year to Blackpool’s Grand Theatre in January accompanied by The Russian State Ballet Orchestra, it’s certainly not one to be missed.

Add the date to your diary now. 2021 dates will be on sale soon.

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