The cracker that no Christmas should go without
There are a few things one should have on their Christmas to-do list: buy the Christmas tree, buy presents, order the turkey and see The Nutcracker. Yes, The Nutcracker is a Christmas staple, and seeing it at the Danish Royal Theatre building on Kongens Nytorv in December has to be one of the most perfect additions to anyone’s Christmas list.
The music for The Nutcracker was written by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and the storyline for the ballet was based on Alexandre Dumas’s adaptation of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by ETA Hoffmann. Tchaikovsky composed some very fine tunes, but The Nutcracker is one of his most loved compositions; you will doubtlessly have heard much of the music on television during the Christmas season, so listen out this year!
The ballet has been adapted in many different ways since its original performance – a week before Christmas, in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1892 – but the ballet being performed in Copenhagen this year will be based on Balanchine’s interpretation. George Balanchine was a Russian who defected to the West in 1933 and settled in the US. Balanchine choreographed this version in 1955 for the New York City Ballet, and it has been an annual money-making exercise for them ever since. And by the way, the story starts under a Christmas tree, and one of the Christmas gifts is … lo and behold … a nutcracker, so it’s not incredibly difficult to see where the ballet’s link to Christmas comes from!
The Nutcracker is always full of light, sparkles and more than its fair share of magic, but you can expect something extra special in Copenhagen this December. Not only is his majesty himself, Nicolaj Hübbe, the artistic director of the Royal Ballet, calling the shots, but the award-winning British set and costume designer, Anthony Ward, has been specifically commissioned to produce the scenery and costumes.
As with most ballets, the lead dancers are different for each performance. Of course, you are ensured fantastic dancers every time, and The Nutcracker will be no disappointment in this respect. Roughly a third of the Royal Ballet’s troupe are dancers from foreign shores, and they will be well-represented over the run, For example, while the opening night will see Gudrun Bojesen, a Danish lass, play the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Ulrik Birkkjær, also a Dane, take on the role of the Cavalie (Prince), the next day will see an American, Amy Watson, dancing the part of the Fairy, and Gregory Dean, a Brit, pas de chat-ing in the part of the Prince.
For those who can speak some Danish, there is an introduction to the ballet 45 minutes before each performance, which takes place in the balcony foyer. The introduction will be presented each night by either a current or retired dancer, so you are guaranteed some very knowledgeable behind-the-scenes insights into The Nutcracker.
Incidentally, it is rumoured that Tchaikovsky himself was not as happy with The Nutcracker as with some of his other ballet compositions, such as The Sleeping Beauty. This may be because he accepted the commission grudgingly, although he later wrote to a friend, that he was “daily becoming more and more attuned to his task”. Whatever Tchaikovsky thought himself, it is widely accepted that the combination of his music, the choreography and the general story-line makes this one of the most popular ballets in the world,and with a chance to experience it before Christmas in one of the most atmospheric theatres one can find, I’d suggest you get on the internet and book your tickets now!
Gamle Scene, Kongens Nytorv, Cph K; starts Thu (Dec 5),ends Dec 22, performances 19:30 every Thu & Fri, and also Dec 10 & 18, at 13:00 & 17:00 on Sat & Sun; tickets 95-695kr, www.kglteater.dk; duration: 120 mins including an interval