Based on the book The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, written by E.T.A. Hoffman, the next performance of the Nutcracker in Dublin takes place on December 22nd at The Convention Centre Dublin. It is now one of the world’s most loved ballets, annually bringing Christmas cheer.
The ballet begins on Christmas Eve, at the home of young Clara and her family, where they are hosting a large party for friends. Among the guests is Uncle Drosselmeyer, who entertains the children with magic tricks and dancing dolls. He then presents Clara with a Nutcracker doll, as a gift, and the story begins to unfold. (Cisneros and Speck, 2003, p291) As the party draws to a close, the guests retire home and Clara is left alone with her Nutcracker Doll. The clock strikes as the midnight hour approaches and the toys come to life. An army of evil mice, led by the Mouse King, invades the house and threatens Clara and the Nutcracker. Leading the toy soldiers into battle, the Nutcracker defeats the Mouse King and transforms into a handsome prince. The Nutcracker leads Clara through an enchanted forest, on their way to the Land of Sweets, where they dance in the snow and admire the beauty of the falling snowflakes. (Cisneros and Speck, 2003, p291)
In Act Two, they reach The Land of Sweets. The Spanish, Arabian, Chinese and Russian dancers welcome them, alongside the waltzing flowers and sparkling sweets. To end the ballet, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance a beautifully detailed and magnificent Pas De Deux, before Clara finds herself back at home and sees her handsome prince is, once again, a Nutcracker Doll. (Cisneros and Speck, 2003, p291)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - A Brief Biography
Tchaicovsky was born in central Russia, 1840. At only four years of age, his governess, Fanny Dürbach began teaching him to play piano. A year later, Maria Palchikova, a young Russian woman, began giving him lessons. When Tchaicovsky was a teenager, he was sent to a school in St. Petersburg that prepared its pupils for a career in law.
In 1854, disaster struck and Tchaicovsky’s beloved mother died of cholera. He turned to music for solace. Some of his earliest compositions date from this time.
In 1859, Tchaicovsky began working at the Ministry of Justice, before leaving in 1863 to enter St Petersburg Conservatory of Music as a full-time student.
(Anon.; ‘Tchaicovsky: Orchestral Masterpieces’; The Classical Collection; Issue 40; pp 473-475)
Tchaicovsky completed his Sixth Symphony (Pathetique) in 1983, during a period of deep mental depression. Only a few days after conducting the premier performance in New York, he drank contaminated river water and died of cholera.
(Anon.; 2003; Russian State Ballet’s The Nutcracker Souvenir Programme; p 19)
Tchaicovsky and The Nutcracker
Following Tchaicovsky’s great success with another ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, Director of the Imperial Theatre, Ivan Vsevolozhsky (1835 – 1909) and the choreographer Marius Petipa (1818 —1910) commissioned Tchaikovsky to compose the music for The Nutcracker.
The ballet was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1892. Almost every number in the suite was encored. However, The Nutcracker remained unknown in the West until January 1934, when Alicia Markova and Stanley Judson staged the production in Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London.
Tchaicovsky composed the music for many other well-known ballets such as Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty.
(Anon.; ‘Tchaicovsky: Ballet Music’; The Great Composers and Their Music; Issue 9; pp212 - 216)
Monica Loughman Ballet
The Monica Loughman Ballet first staged their production of The Nutcracker in November 2011, in The Helix, Dublin and The Town Hall Theatre, Galway. Guest principals Inessa Bikbulatova and Ivan Mikhalev (from the Bolshoi) accompanied the dancers of The Monica Loughman Ballet, alongside Hip-hop dancers Ian Harris, Gavin Kelly, Nathan Evans and Donking Rongavilla.
The Hip-hop dancers provided a modern twist in this unique production of The Nutcracker. Monica Loughman explains that “their energy and contrasting styles fit so well, and they bring The Nutcracker into this century and liven it up”. (Loughman; 2011; n.p.)
The elaborate and decorative costumes, some imported from Russia and some designed by Ireland’s own Monica Ennis, were “the life-blood of the ballet...adding to the excitement and the artistic prowess of the event”. (Loughman; 2011; n.p.) The company was welcomed with applause, cheers and standing ovations. The Irish Times’ Chirstie Taylor Seaver remarked that “the corps worked expertly together, with each head turned at the proper angle, every wrist in place” while the solo performers “exuded great energy”. The production “exemplified athleticism, artistry, the ability to transcend the everyday with even the slightest magical spark”. (Taylor Seaver, 2011, n.p.)
Anonymous; 2003; Russian State Ballet’s The Nutcracker Souvenir Programme; page 19
Anon.; ‘Tchaicovsky: Orchestral Masterpieces’; The Classical Collection; Issue 40; pp 473-475
Anon.; ‘Tchaicovsky: Ballet Music’; The Great Composers and Their Music; Issue 9; pp 212 - 216
Cisneros, Evelyn and Speck, Scott; 2003; Ballet For Dummies; Indiana; Wiley Publishing Inc.; page 291
Loughman, Monica and White, Lucy; 2011; ‘Five Questions for Monica Loughman’ in The Metro Herald
Taylor Seaver, Chirstie; 2011; ‘The Nutcracker’ in The Irish Times