Thursday, 26 December 2019

The Nutcracker #3 - The Royal Ballet Screening

Standard YouTube Licence 

The Royal Ballet The Nutcracker 17 Dec 2019 19:39 Screened to cinemas worldwide

Yesterday I discussed the screening of the Bolshoi's version of The Nutcracker on 15 Dec 2019 in The Nutcracker #2 - The Bolshoi Screening.  Two days later the Bolshoi's screening, the Royal Opera House screened a recording of the Royal Ballet's version of The Nutcracker.  For the reasons that I explained yesterday the twp productions are very different.  The Bolshoi's records Marie's transition into womanhood while the Royal Ballet's is a fantasy with more than a little in common with Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Lookingglass.  

The Royal Ballet's production was created by Sir Peter Wright who took a bow at the end of the show.  The recording was made in 2016 which coincided with Sir Peter's 90th birthday.  In Sir Peter's version, the nutcracker is  Drosselmeyer's nephew who is imprisoned in wood.  He can come back to life only through the love of a young woman.  This is an adaptation of ETA Hoffmann's story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and it is a detail that most versions of the ballet overlook.  This makes Drosselmeyer a much less sinister and more likeable character than in the Bolshoi's or most other versions of the ballet.  Sir Peter's ballet opens in Drosselmeyer's workshop as he wraps up his present for Clara.  The workshop is also where the show ends as the nephew - restored to human form -  embraces his uncle.

Sir Peter's ballet requires two ballerinas, namely the young girl known as Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy, and two premiers danseurs nobles, that is to say, the nutcracker and the Sugar Plum Fairy's prince or cavalier.  There are also meaty roles for the mouse king, Harlequin and Columbine in the first act and the soloists in each of the divertissements of the second.  The climax of the production is the pas de deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her beau.  Probably, the most famous dance of the whole ballet is the Sugar Plum Fairy's solo to the slightly otherworldly sounds of the celesta.

In the recording, Drosselmeyer was danced by the company's principal character artist, Gary Avis whom I once had the pleasure of meeting at the London Ballet Circle's 70th-anniversary celebrations.  I can report that he is as gracious in real life as he is graceful on stage.  Clara was danced by Francesca Hayward who was perfect in the role.  Her nutcracker was Alexander Campbell who, like Xander Parish, shares my passion for cricket as well as dance. The Sugar Plum Fairy was danced by Lauren Cuthbertson, my dancer of the year in 2016. and she was partnered by Federico Bonelli, another favourite.  With an orchestra was conducted by Maestro Gruzin it is hard to think of a  stronger cast by any company anywhere in the world.  The sets, costumes and technical effects match the choreography and dancing.  It is a sumptuous production.

On Sunday I shall see Sir Peter Wright's production for the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Royal Albert Hall.  That will be the last Nutcracker that I shall see this season and indeed the last ballet of this year.  The version that is staged at the Hippodrome is my favourite version of The Nutcracker. If the Hippodrome version can be scaled up for the Royal Albert's stage I suspect Birmingham Royal Ballet's will be my favourite Nutcracker for this year.

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