Posts Tagged ‘Nutcracker’

The Nutcracker with Klimentová and Muntagirov, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, December 2012

15 December, 2012

The clever concept behind English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is not that the toy comes to life, but that in Clara’s mind he takes on the form of Drosselmeyer’s handsome nephew, seen in a blue uniform at the party in Act I. After the death of the Mouse King, which occurs in Act II of this production, the nephew becomes the Nutcracker, and towards the end, in new costumes, he and Clara dance the Sugar Plum fairy pas-de-deux.

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

The way this concept is really brought to life by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling is to have two Nutcrackers. The one with a painted mask on his face is the toy come to life, the one without a mask is Clara’s vision of him as the Nephew. They interchange for the first time after the snow scene in Act I, and the masked Nutcracker only finally disappears in early Act II after killing the Mouse King, who survived Act I and hung on to the balloon taking Clara, Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker to the land of Sweets.

ENB image Annabel Moeller

ENB image Annabel Moeller

Having the final battle in Act II is unusual but Wayne Eagling’s production is otherwise entirely standard, starting and ending with Clara’s bedroom and skaters on the ice outside the house. The party scene in Act I is a spontaneous medley of dancing, action, and conjuring tricks from Fabian Reimair as a fine Drosselmeyer. He twice alters the hands of the clock, the second occasion being when the young Clara, beautifully played by Annabella Sanders, gets out of bed after the party to go downstairs. Drosselmeyer turns the time to midnight, and the magic starts.

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Fine performances by James Forbat and James Streeter as Nutcracker and Mouse King, and the grown-up Clara was Daria Klimentová with Vadim Muntagirov as the Nephew. They were superb together, a real treat to watch.

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

In the Arabian dance Clara joins in to release the prisoner, none other than her own grown-up brother Freddie, who also appeared earlier to help battle the mice. In the Mirliton variation, which in this production is for one girl as a butterfly partnered by Drosslemeyer, Ksenia Ovsyanick was beautifully fluid in her movements. It was a star turn of the evening, but there was fine dancing all round and Esteban Berlanga as one of the Cavaliers in the Waltz of the Flowers was wonderfully precise and on the music.

Lovely designs by Peter Farmer, well lit by David Richardson, and good musical direction by Gavin Sutherland from the orchestra pit, always sensitive to the tempos for the dancers.

Nutcracker not to be missed, but performances finish on January 5 and tickets are now few and far between — for details click here.

The Nutcracker with Nuñez and Soares, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, December 2012.

11 December, 2012

At the start of this Peter Wright production, we see Drosselmeyer in his workshop comparing his toy Nutcracker with a portrait on the wall of his lost nephew. Then at the very end, where some productions show Clara being put to bed by her mother, the Nutcracker prince finds his Uncle Drosselmeyer and they embrace. It’s a nice touch, and in the meantime we are treated to a glorious stage spectacle that reflects E.T.A. Hoffmann’s mixture of the real and imaginary worlds by having Clara and her beloved Nutcracker join in some of the Act II dances.

All images ROH/ Johan Persson

ROH image/ Johan Persson

In the December 10 performance, Emma Maguire was a magical Clara, dancing with the girls at the party as an equal, and joining in the character dances of Act II to perfection. She inspired the whole performance, precise in her movements, wonderfully musical, and full of a sense of wonder.

In Act I at the Stahlbaum’s house there was an air of spontaneity underlying everything including the adult dances, and Gary Avis as the father exerted quiet authority while allowing Lovely performances with Christopher Saunders an admirable Drosselmeyer in his light blue cloak, Valentino Zucchetti sparkling as his assistant, and Kenta Kura and Akane Takada dancing an excellent vignette as the soldier and his lady. Ryoichi Hirano was a powerful Mouse King, bravely hit twice by Clara with her slipper, and when the Nutcracker recovers, Koen Kessels in the orchestra pit allowed the music to swell forth with emotion and then really let it rip, giving huge force to Alexander Campbell’s spectacular coupé-jetés round the stage.

Mouse King

ROH image Johan Persson

Campbell was a fine Nutcracker, miming the battle beautifully when they arrive in the Kingdom of Sweets, and as he and Clara join in some of the character dances they inspired them with joy. Maguire as Clara was a lovely addition to the Spanish dance, great fun with the four men in the Chinese dance, and a perfect mirliton with the four others. Campbell too was a strong addition to the Russian dance and the Waltz of the Flowers. As the Rose Fairy, Yuhui Choe was brilliantly on the music, but more rehearsal was needed for the four leading flowers and particularly their cavaliers, fine dancers though they be.

In the final pas-de-deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier, Marianela Nuñez showed a lovely line in her slow poses with Thiago Soares, and as things warmed up, the conductor moved the orchestra into top gear. Soares suddenly dropped out for some reason, but Dawid Trzensimiech, who was dancing one of the four cavaliers in the waltz of the flowers, seamlessly stepped in and completed the role.

Soares and Nuñez, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

Soares and Nuñez, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

Koen Kessels gave a top quality performance with the orchestra, and although performances continue until January 16 they are sold out, so call up for returns, and for details click here. Also see the live cinema relay on Thursday, December 13.

Nutcracker, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB at the O2, December 2011

31 December, 2011

Ballet under the big top of the O2 — can it work, or is the audience too far away to see the dancers clearly? Sitting behind the raked tiers of seats, the view was clear if distant, but a closer view was shown on a big screen above the stage. This was very cleverly done, and for example in the Act II dance of the Mirlitons where Clara dances with the four of them, on the screen you see just her and two Mirlitions, providing close-ups and the full effect at the same time. Peter Wright helped revamp his own production for the huge space of the O2, and it works very well.

All photos by Bill Cooper

The dancing was super, and apart from the Rose Fairy in Act II being blithely off the music, most of it was first rate. This was the final performance on December 30th, and Angela Paul was a memorable Clara — she has the looks and the charm, and those close-up screenings gave her a magical presence. The real magician of course is Drosselmeyer with his flowing cape, a role Robert Parker portrayed with great panache, assisted by the acrobatic Tzu-Chao Chou. And talking of acrobatics, Joseph Caley was a remarkable Jack-in-the-Box in his hugely baggy trousers.

King Rat

After the guests have left the party in Act I and midnight has struck, the Christmas tree grows to such a vast size that we see only the bottom branches with huge candles, creating the impression that Clara has become as small as the nutcracker doll and the mice. It’s an Alice in Wonderland-like illusion, and then as we enter the wonderland realm of Act II those set piece character dances were beautifully performed, with Clara occasionally joining in. In his original story, E.T.A. Hoffmann mixes the real and magical worlds very cleverly, and having the real Clara in her nightdress join in with some of these fantastic characters from Spain, Arabia, China, and Russia, along with Mirlitons from the Land of Sweets, and flowers too, is a nice touch. The Spanish dance was brilliantly performed, with Maureya Lebowitz as the girl, and the final pas-de-deux with Iain Mackay as the Nutcracker Prince and Jenna Roberts as the Sugar Plum Fairy was excellent. His coupé-jetés were brilliantly executed and their partnership was flawlessly musical.

Waltz of the Flowers

Tchaikovsky’s music was well conducted by Koen Kessels, and though I miss the acoustics of the theatre, this is a super opportunity for the Birmingham Royal Ballet to show their talents to a wide audience. It’s not my choice of venue, but the more people who go to see serious ballet the better!

Nutcracker, English National Ballet, ENB at the London Coliseum, December 2010

11 December, 2010

Nutcracker is based on a story by E. T. A. Hoffmann that beautifully interweaves the real world with the magical world, all under the enchanting influence of Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer. On the other hand Tchaikovsky’s ballet creates a greater distinction between the two worlds, and linking them more intimately is a potential challenge for any production. This one by Wayne Eagling involves some interesting ideas. For example, the mouse king is not killed in Act I but lives on into Act II, clinging to the carriage of a balloon that takes Clara and the Nutcracker away from the snow scene at the end of the first Act. He’s then killed during the second Act in a small theatre on stage, which serves as a background for the character dances.

In the Hoffmann original the Nutcracker is a magical version of Drosselmeyer’s nephew, a feature represented in Eagling’s production by having the two characters interchange on stage several times. For instance during a pas-de-trois for Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer and Clara, the Nutcracker transforms into the nephew and dances with her alone. And rather than having Clara as an onlooker during the festivities of Act II, she is a participant, coming on during the Arabian dance to release a prisoner from bondage, and later dancing with her prince as if she were the sugar plum fairy. The Spanish, Chinese, and Russian dances, along with the dance of the flowers, are of the usual type, but the dance of the mirlitons becomes a pas-de-quatre for three boys and a girl who represents a butterfly that eventually falls prey to Drosselmeyer’s net. These aspects of the production help to link the real and the magical, but I missed any representation of the Mother Ginger episode whose music I love. I also missed the final bars at the end, which were cut to leave everything quietly as it was in the prologue, with the exterior of the parents’ house on stage, and Clara and her brother creeping out for some fresh air.

The prologue — during the orchestral overture — started very well with ice skaters in front of the parents’ house, but Act I didn’t really gel on the first night. Things warmed up in Act II and the pas-de-deux between Daria Klimentova as Clara, and Vadim Muntagirov as her prince, was terrific. His lines were beautifully clean and their dancing had real élan. There were also some wonderful performances in the character dances particularly Shiori Kase in the Chinese dance, and the leading flowers Begoña Cao and Sarah McIlroy with their partners Daniel Kraus and James Forbat danced beautifully.

The designs by Peter Farmer gave a sense of solidity to the real world, and a lightness of touch to the magical. The Christmas tree grew while the mice were dancing and then transformed itself into a snow-covered tree for the rest of Act I. This is a Nutcracker interweaving the real and the magical, though the first night may not have shown it to best advantage, and the orchestral playing under the baton of Gavin Sutherland seemed a little uneven. It will surely settle down later, and performances continue until December 30 — for more details click here.