Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker

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The Kirov Ballet (Mariinsky Ballet), St. Petersburg, Russia, performing Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker: Konstantin Ivanov's original sketch for the set of The Nutcracker, Act II (1892).
Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Queenofthewilis.
















The Nutcracker is a popular ballet, especially this time of year. It has a beautiful score and is a visual delight to see for children and adults of all ages. In Wikipedia, we read the following notes on the ballet's history and significance:
The Nutcracker (Russian: Щелкунчик, Schelkunchik) is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". It was given its premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on 18 December 1892, on a double-bill with Tchaikovsky's opera, Iolanta.[1]

Although the original production was not a success, the twenty-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was. However, the complete Nutcracker has enjoyed enormous popularity since the mid-20th century and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in the U.S.[2] Tchaikovsky's score has become one of his most famous compositions, in particular the pieces featured in the suite.[3]

Among other things, the score is noted for its use of the celesta, an instrument that the composer had already employed in his much lesser known symphonic ballad The Voyevoda. Although known primarily as the featured solo instrument in the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from Act II of The Nutcracker, it is also employed elsewhere in the same act.[4]

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