The premiere of ‘The Nutcracker’ took place last Friday on the Old Stage of the Royal Theatre. It was a night of elegance, majestic music and enchanting ballet dances enjoyed by a wide cross-section of Copenhagen high society.
From Dansk Folkeparti MEP Morten Messerschmidt to Alexander Kölpin, a well-known retired ballet dancer, the famous and distinguished came to enjoy this two-act ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score – the ultimate Christmassy experience, many would say.
A poignant tribute
The night started off with some welcoming but poignant words from the Royal Theatre’s artistic director Nikolaj Hübbe, who paid tribute to the recently receased Otto Detlefs, a well-known patron of the arts, and his wife, who was present in the audience.
Without the support of their foundation, revealed Hübbe, the likes of ‘The Nutcracker’ would struggle to flourish on Danish stages.
“Let’s not make this night sad,” the director of the show told the audience. “Instead of two minutes of silence, enjoy two hours of extravagance.” And he was true to his word.
‘The Nutcracker’ really is ballet at its most showy. Starting off in the human world, it takes us into a young girl’s imagination in which Christmas trees grow enormous in front of our very eyes – transformative effects that the Royal Theatre pulled off with aplomb.
Aided by some magnificent scenography and costumes by Anthony Ward (replacing the queen this year), superb lighting by Anders Poll and a wonderful orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Paterson, the production values of this performance are second to none. It really is no wonder that it is back by popular demand.
On Christmas Eve
This version was especially created for children, and it is mainly performed by child dancers, which is fitting given that the principals are kids themselves. As the ballet begins, one of them, young Marie, is peeking through a keyhole. It’s Christmas Eve and her parents are arranging the presents under the tree ahead of a party they are giving.
The guests start arriving, elegantly dressed in their tuxedos and taffeta dresses, and the last of them is Godfather Drosselmeyer, the toymaker, who brings gifts for all the children.
Girls receive china dolls, boys bugles and hats and Marie the best gift of all: the Nutcracker. But her naughty brother Fritz only gets a drum and in a fit of jealously, he attempts to steal his sister’s gift, breaking it in the process.
Drosselmeyer partly fixes it with a handkerchief, leaving Marie to fall asleep with it under the tree. Now the fantasy can begin and the whole audience can get lost in its magic.
A mesmerising second act
There really are too many scenes to mention. Their arrival in the snowy forest for the snow-flake dance is a moment of the purest enchantment. Likewise, the scene in the Land of Sweets is spellbinding. A little girl’s reaction in the row behind us said it all: eyes wide open, enormous candies, snow-glazed mountains and flowers danced around her pupils. She was wowed and so were we.
Other moments worthy of mention include the Spanish fandango dancing to the sound of castanets, the matryoshka dolls performing Russian folk dancing, Mandarin dancing to exotic Asian flutes, the waltz of the flowers and the hypnotising dance of the odalisque. In their own way, each one finds a way to bewitch you in the magical world Marie is imagining.
The final waltz by the fairy and the handsome cavalier left us speechless. It was an exhilaratingly romantic performance from both the ballet dancers.
And then as the prince and the princess left the stage on a Christmas sleigh, the ballet came to an end to effusive, well-deserved applause from the audience.
Guaranteed to delight both children and adults, this is a great night out for all the family. If you love Christmas and still relate to your inner-child, don’t miss out on this outstanding performance, because tickets are selling fast!