The BackShop Journal

A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

Nutcracker, One of the Favourite Ballets of All Time

On Sunday, December 18, 1892, exactly 125 years ago, the ballet Nutcracker by Piotr Tchaikovsky was given its premiere at the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg. The original production, performed that night on a double-bill with Tchaiskovsky's opera Iolanta did not enjoy an initial success. The 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet, on the other hand, became quickly popular.  Nutcracker has enjoyed enormous popularity after World War II, and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in North America.

The libretto was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffman's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". The two-act ballet was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, one of the most influential ballet masters and choreographers in ballet history, and Lev Ivanov, the ballet master of the Imperial Ballet.

The Nutcracker occupies a special place among the later works of Piotr Tchaikovsky. It stands apart from the tradition of the ballet genre because of its innovatively applied musical images.

It is interesting that after the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, and the growth of patriotic feelings in Russia, the main character, Clara, was renamed Masha. The name Fritz remained unchanged, since he is a negative character. The change was never revoked.

Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is considered to be one of the greatest composers of the world, a bright representative of musical romanticism and one of the outstanding lyricists and playwrights-psychologists in music. His works are deeply immersed into the psychological analysis of complex and contradictory phenomena of life.

The ballet has enjoyed enormous success in the United States, and its popularity is not diminishing to this date. Major American ballet companies generate around 40 percent of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker.

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