Tchaikovsky's festive ballet is a dazzling showcase for the Royal Ballet's skills
The Royal Ballet's 'The Nutcracker' is back for Christmas 2017. This review is from the 2015 run.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without ‘The Nutcracker’. Tchaikovsky’s 1892 piece, with its dancing dolls, feisty mice and fairies, all sugared over with snowflakes and delicious music, is probably the most popular ballet in the world. Everyone should go at least once, preferably with children. And if you’re going to splurge on tickets then the Royal Opera House’s production, now 21 years old and still going strong, is the one to see.
This ‘Nutcracker’ is a box of delights, presided over by the magician Drosselmeyer – a twinkly, raffish Gary Avis – who whirls about the stage dispensing sequins and magic tricks. His beloved nephew has been turned into a Nutcracker Doll, so when Drosselmeyer is invited to entertain the children at the Stahlbaums’s Christmas party, he takes the opportunity to give the Nutcracker to their daughter Clara, in the hope she will help break the spell.
The story is even lighter than your average ballerina. Which doesn’t matter, as it’s mainly there to provide an excuse for all the set piece treats. And there are a lot of them, starting with a stirring battle between stiffly leaping toy soldiers and leaping mice with manes like lions. It’s fantastic, and over before the end of the first act. Which leaves the whole of the second for an extended victory party in the kingdom of sweets, complete with rewards, fairies, and divertissements from Spain, Russia, China and Arabia. They’re a dazzling showcase for this superb company’s skills (even if it’s hard to ignore the fact that the choreography of the ‘Chinese’ interlude has about as much modern cultural sensitivity as Widow Twankey’s laundry).
As the tender Clara, Francesca Hayward brings lovely innocence and poise to a role that’s not winning prizes for feminism any time soon. Her rapt attention as she sits on the sidelines and admires the Rose Fairy (Yasmine Naghdi), then finally the Sugar Plum Fairy (the company’s sparkling new guest artist Iana Salenko) and her Prince (Steven McRae) makes them, as they dispense grace and beauty from the top of their frosted hair to the tips of their pointed toes, all the more enchanting.
‘The Nutcracker’ demands unembarrassed fantasy and the kind of sugared spectacle that would give you toothache under any other circumstances. The scenery, costumes and choreography here absolutely deliver. When the Stahlbaums’s Christmas tree rises like an enormous pyramid from the stage, it’s one of many magical moments that deserve to be seen live. Tickets are not cheap (stalls seats break the £100 barrier) but you can queue on the morning of the performance for 44 reduced-price tickets or see the production in various cinemas from December 16. Take a child and it’s absolutely worth it, to give them a special Christmas memory that they can share on when this classic production returns for its sixtieth birthday.
Average User Rating
4 / 5
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This is the worst the ballet evening I have ever experienced. If you want to have the pleasure of viewing a ballet do not book a performance with the English National Ballet as their policy allows people to take pictures and film which disturbs your viewing. People just do not know how to behave. There was rustling and crunching through the performance, you would think that people would know not to make noise especially when listening to a live orchestra. To top it off the performance was ruined by inconsiderate individuals taking pictures and filming. You would think that this would be prohibited and I hope that the ENB realise that it was not a good move to allow this as it really destroys the viewing experience for others. I was extremely disappointed. I love going to see live performances because to hear a live orchestra is amazing and to watch something live on stage is fascinating and is not the same as watching a DVD. The sets and costumes are beautiful and I am upset that I could not fully appreciate this performance because of the noise and light distractions.
The ballet was really enchanting, amazing costumes, lovely sets. The ballet was spoiled by the selfish behavior of the audience taking photographs and recording the production via their cameras+phones. Had my view obscured by a person taking pictures in front of me and glare from an Ipad from a person recording. Complained about this and was told ENB allow people to record the production so they will put it on social media. ENB need to get a grip on their PR and not cheapen the experience of theatregoers by having phones/cameras/Ipads shoved in their faces during live performances. It is not tolerated in the cinema, during plays or musicals, this behaviour should not be tolerated during a live ballet performance.