"The Nutcracker": Facts about Tchaikovsky’s fabulous ballet

"The Nutcracker" has become one of the most popular ballets in the world.

"The Nutcracker" has become one of the most popular ballets in the world.

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As a grand culmination to the Festival of Russian Culture in India, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’ ballet is being performed by a group of dancers from the Bolshoi theatre. This will be the first time the entire ballet, in two acts, will be performed in India.

The famed “Nutcracker" ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky will be presented for the first time in its entirety in New Delhi as the grand culmination of the Festival of Russian Culture in India. The performance, by a 30-member troupe from the renowned Bolshoi Theatre of Russia, will be staged at the Siri Fort Auditorium on October 25.

The leading roles will be performed by soloists of the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia. Diana Kosyreva, winner of numerous international competitions, will perform on stage as Masha. She will partner Andrey Bolotin, the honoured artist of Russia, who will perform the party of the ‘Nutcracker-Prince’ on the night. The Moscow Classical Ballet troupe, under the direction of Christine Handlos, will also perform in the concert.

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The tale of the ‘Nutcracker,’ conceived and created by the German romantic Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann and published for the first time in Berlin in 1816, was re-told by Alexander Dumas in 1844, in the French style. It was translated into the language of music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky 48 years later in 1892, and put on pointe by the legendary Marius Petipa.

Since then, "The Nutcracker" has become one of the most popular ballets in the world.

10 little-known facts about this world-famous ballet

Ivan Vsevolozhsk, an official and Director of the Imperial Theatres, thought of creating the "The Nutcracker" at the end of the 19th century when he saw in the story of a little girl and a nutcracker the future ballet. Initially, "The Nutcracker" followed Tchaikovsky's opera "Iolanta" in the same show and the audience heard a whole musical extravaganza by a single author.

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The premiere took place at the Mariinsky Theatre on December 18, 1892 in St. Petersburg, performed on stage by all the students of the Imperial Theatre School troupe. The roles ranged from the most natural "children at the Christmas party" to the leading ones. The young artists all received a box of chocolates, and the ballet adopted a new tradition – bringing out the little dancers on to the big stage.

Marichen, Mary, Masha ... To name a few of the names given to the Enchanted Prince’s saviour – a German woman according to the tale’s literary origin, as was Clara – the protagonist doll from the primary source. The girl became Masha on the Russian stage after the First World War – for patriotic reasons.

Another premiere took place at the premiere of "The Nutcracker": of the celesta, a musical instrument new to Russia. It resembles a miniature piano with strings instead of metal plates brought from Paris by Tchaikovsky himself, and kept a secret to impress the audience at the premiere.

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The "Melting" celesta sounds accompany the most "adult" and technical dance in the performance. The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy has the main supporting role in "The Nutcracker". Even a hundred years ago, the Lady of the sweets had to turn 16 fouettes. The Italian prima donna, Antonietta del Era, came out on to the Russian stage for the first time.

Carnival, Russian style: The classic "Nutcracker" has around 150 different costumes. Flowers, toys, toy soldiers, snowflakes, fairies, mice ... More than fifty stage staff are required to dress this little ballet army. Even the confetti is calculated in kilograms: the spectacular snowflakes dance requires at least 20 kg of them.

 The "Nutcracker" staged by Yury Grigorovich at the Bolshoi Theatre became a classic of the twentieth century, and the master performance of the duo Masha and the Prince with their real life rather than scenic feelings, was the work of the Russian ballet star couple Ekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev. Vasilyev’s Nutcracker, according Grigorovich, is the perfect fairy-tale hero. Maximova literally grew from ‘Snowflake’ to Masha.

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After the 1917 revolution in Russia, "The Nutcracker" became an export item, as part of the Sergeyev Collection of 27 priceless records of Petipa's productions. Nikolay Sergeyev, the chief director of the Mariinsky Theatre ballet troupe, left the country and took the rare artefacts with him. The scores are stored at Harvard University, and the ballet spread all over the world.

"The Nutcracker" is a real survivor. The ballet has been performed more than 500 times just at the Bolshoi Theatre. The Christmas story owes a great deal to the Russian-American choreographer George Balanchine, who made a statement by performing it for the New York City Ballet in 1954 to further popularize it abroad.

In the 1993 film adaptation, a Balanchine ballet school pupil and famous actor Macaulay Culkin played the role of the Prince.

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After Balanchine’s play, ‘Nutcracker’ mania engulfed the world. The Christmas fantasy was directed on the stage of different countries by such legendary choreographers as Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Maurice Bejart, and Matthew Bourne.

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