This DVD is in the same series as the
recent Sleeping Beauty, and the
production, as then, is based upon the
choreography of Marius Petipa and staged
by Yuri Grigorovich. This is the sort
of production that would make it worthwhile
going to Moscow for Christmas, such
is its quality.
ballet is based upon a story "The
Nutcracker and the Mouse King"
written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816.
It deals with the little girl of the
Stahlbaum family and her activities
over one Christmas Eve. This began life
as a German fairy story but it is unlikely
that Tchaikovsky knew the original.
Originally negative towards the story
as the basis for a ballet, Tchaikovsky
gradually became more and more positive
until at last, this wonderful ballet
Act I starts with the
general bustle of preparations for Christmas
in the Stahlbaum household. Clara is
enormously attracted to one of the toys,
which are arranged around the Christmas
tree, namely a wooden Nutcracker Doll.
As midnight approaches, an army of mice
appear and start attacking the children.
The Nutcracker, at the magic time of
midnight comes alive and is transformed
into a prince, and with the help of
further presents of toy soldiers also
come alive, sets about defeating the
Mouse King and his followers. The Prince
shoots the Mouse King and he and his
army are defeated. The prince then takes
Clara to the Sweet Kingdom. And this
section is the whole of Act II, made
up of characteristic dances as various
different characters come forward and
perform their wares.
This part of the ballet
is where most of the famous Nutcracker
Suite comes from. At the conclusion
of the ballet, Clara and the Nutcracker
Prince are transported back to the house,
where everything is back to normal (as
it would be in a fairy story), ready
for the celebrations of Christmas the
This fine production
has been filmed in such a way that the
noise of feet clumping on the floor
is entirely absent, so making it a pleasure
to listen to, unlike many DVDs of ballet
where the foot noise is clearly evident.
It shares this benefit with the Sleeping
Beauty, mentioned above.
As before, the orchestra
plays superbly under its conductor Aleksandr
Kopilov, and the interpretation not
only sounds right, but supports the
dancers superbly well. The sets are
also traditional, presumably being updated,
as are the costumes, to take advantage
of modern technology. Visually, this
production is an absolute feast.
The standard of dancing
at the Bolshoi, based upon the evidence
of this and the previous DVD is magnificent.
Unlike productions in this country where
the same soloists generally appear with
various productions, here there are
only two dancers common to both productions.
The two leads, Natalya Arkhipova and
Irek Mukhamedov are both outsanding,
making the effort of dancing their demanding
parts seem effortless.
Like the previous production
of the Sleeping Beauty, this production
is recorded live, with the audience
noise restricted in the main to the
end of many of the set pieces. Given
the standard of performance, I was ready
to join them.
You are probably aware
that I liked this DVD immensely. I recommend
it with all enthusiasm.
staging of one of Tchaikovsky’s masterpieces
of the stage, allowing us to appreciate
the traditional staging and choreography
so healthily presented on this DVD.