|The audience at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1858|
I saw The Nutcracker in a whole new light this afternoon. Most of the productions of The Nutcracker that I have seen focus on the divertiseements in the land of the sweets culminating in the dance of the sugar plum fairy and her cavalier - Wayne Eagling's version for English National Ballet being the big exception (Cracking! 14 Dec 2013). Yuri Grigorovich version, which was transmitted this afternoon live from the Bolshoi Theatre to cinemas around the world, focused on a young girl's transitioning into womanhood and her falling in love with her nutcracker.
Accordingly, Clara (who is called Marie in the Bolshoi's version) has a much bigger role than in most productions. Today she was danced by Anna Nikulina a leading soloist with the company. Her partner was Denis Rodkin. In the interval Rodkin explained that his ambition to dance was fired by seeing a production of The Nutcracker on television in which Ekaterina Maximova danced. He asked his parents where he could learn to dance. They told him about the ballet school warning him that it would be no easy life. Undeterred he started ballet lessons and has not looked back since. As in the Eagling version, Clara dances the sugar plum role though in a white tutu rather than a plum coloured one. Similarly, the nutcracker dances the part of the fairy's cavalier. The ballet ends with Clara wearing a wedding veil. But although Clara imagines herself as a young woman it is only a dream. She wakes up in her parents' living room in her nightie with her nutcracker in her arms.
There were some other interesting touches. The mouse king, danced today by Vitaly Biktimirov, is a major character. He appears in the first act in a puff of smoke in the Stahlbaums' living room and disappears down a hole with the nutcracker in another puff of smoke in the second. Eventually the nutcracker emerges triumphant bearing the mouse king's skin and crown. The second act takes place not in a land of sweets but in a forest dominated by an enormous Christmas tree. The divertissements are very slick each following in quick succession even before the previous dancers have left the stage.
The character who holds the ballet together in this version as in all others is, of course, Drosselmeyer. He is in every scene from the Stahlbaums' party to the apotheosis. Today Andrei Merkuriev danced Drosselmeyer. Pensive, alert, inspired by brain waves, he was very well cast for the role.
As in all Bolshoi transmissions the ballet was introduced by Katherina Novikova. She is an excellent presenter. Fluent in English and French she is an incisive and perceptive interviewer. I had her in mind when I conducted my interviews with Gavin McCaig and Ernst Meisner and his talented young dancers.
Every time I see an HDTV transmission I notice something new. Today I noticed the floor of the stage give a little whenever a dancer jumped. Something I have never noticed even when I have been in the front row of the theatre.