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Favourite (and not so favourite) Nutcracker productions


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As a result of the ongoing discussion on the RB Nutcracker thread I thought it may be interesting to find out people's different preferences and recommendations.

 

Here's my starter for 10:

 

Favourite productions:

 

1.  SPW's for Birmingham Royal Ballet.  My first viewing was a matinee during the first run on 2nd January 1991.  Kevin O'Hare was the Prince.  I will never forget the thrill of the transformation scene with the tree growing and growing and growing and the arrival of King Rat.  It sent shivers down my spine, put an enormous lump in my throat - and it still does!  The party scene in the first act makes perfect sense with Mother being a retired ballerina.  I love, love, love the duet when Clara saves the Nutcracker who is transformed into human form.  It's so wonderful it was years before I noticed the set changing to the snow kingdom!  For me it is the ultimate Nutcracker.

 

2.  David Nixon's production for Northern Ballet, which is a much smaller production designed for the smaller stages that Northern Ballet tour too.  This production is charming and fun, with no mystical overtones.  What I have loved about this production, particularly this year, is the joyous performances I have enjoyed and the obvious enjoyment that all the dancers have shown in performing it.  Given that my initial reaction was "oh no not again" when the autumn season was first announced I had to eat my words as I could not get enough of this production.

 

3.  Sir Matthew Bourne's production for New Adventures - bleaker in act 1 and then showbiz all the way.  I love his snowflakes.

 

 

Least favourite productions:

 

3.  Derek Deane's for ENB

 

2.  Wayne Eagling's for ENB

 

1.  SPW's for the Royal Ballet

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There are several versions I enjoy - some for quite different reasons - so don't assume there's any underlying logic to my list!

 

In the order of my first viewing them they are

 

  • Nureyev - Royal Ballet (still to be seen at Paris Opera Ballet)
  • Balanchine - New York City Ballet
  • Mark Morris - The Hard Nut (Mark Morris Dance Company)
  • Peter Wright - Birmingham Royal Ballet

I don't dare mention ones I don't like as I don't want (egregiously) to annoy people, or bore them!

Edited by Douglas Allen
grammar change for clarity
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Three that I like a lot:

 

1. It’s hard to beat Sir Peter Wright’s Nutcracker for the RB, particularly the initial London version in the ‘80s. I’m sorry that Wright has fiddled with it so much, in an effort to give Clara & the Nutcracker more participation in the A2 divertissements. A lot of the inputs by historian RJ Wiley have been removed but, still, it remains my favorite version.

 

2. The NYCB version by Balanchine is a close second. There’s maybe too much “kid participation” but they’re so well rehearsed. I also love seeing Balanchine’s remembrance of the original 1892 Russian Dance (hoops).

 

3. The current Berlin version by Burlaka & Medvedeva recreates the original Russian Imperial designs but, alas, with mostly new choreography, not in keeping with the Tsarist aesthetic (such as the Arabian Dance). Yet, it recreates substantial portions of the 1892 choreography, such as Snowflakes, the Buffoon (Russian hoop dance), and the main pdd (retaining Sugarplum’s slide on the silk scarf...which London has lost).

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Janet and I share a great love for the BRB production which remains my absolute favourite.  Nothing comes close to it, including the sister production for the RB.  Far too many angels for my taste but I would never deny the quality of the dancing.

 

My very least favourite sank without trace about 30 years ago.  Much as I admired Peter Schaufuss and many of his achievements with LFB/ENB his production of the Nutcracker was an utter stinker.

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1 minute ago, Two Pigeons said:

 

My very least favourite sank without trace about 30 years ago.  Much as I admired Peter Schaufuss and many of his achievements with LFB/ENB his production of the Nutcracker was an utter stinker.

 

I loved his snowflakes!

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My favorites:

 

1) The Balanchine version. My first experience with it was actually pretty awful -- it was a trainwreck of a performance where I remember about five falls (three snowflakes alone fell -- at different times), the Candy Cane tripped over the hoop, and SPF was having an awful night and did not attempt the final unsupported balance. The Dewdrop also faceplanted. I was like "this is it?" It wasn't until I moved away from NYC and moved back that I went to see it again and this time I remember it being Tiler Peck as Dewdrop and Sterling Hyltin as SPF. I was enchanted. In terms of pure choreography it remains my favorite version.

 

2) Sir Peter Wright's FIRST attempt. I watched that Collier/Dowell video a bunch of times. I loved it. But I mentioned this on the other thread that every year he adds more to the production and now I just think it's extremely fussy.

 

3) Alexei Ratmansky's version for ABT. There's many things I dislike but overall it's a very funny Nutcracker with plenty of heart.

 

4) Nutcracker Rouge - this alternative burlesque Nutcracker in Brooklyn by choreographer Austin McCormick. They encourage people to take videos and I took many videos of this wonderful production. 

 

Here is my playlist:

 

5) I also enjoy The Hard Nut althogh not as much as many people. I find the first act funny, the second act not so charming. 

 

6) Mariinsky's Nutcracker. A bit too pink and twee, but charming for what it is and I enjoy the Vaganova Academy annual performances.

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I still remember images of Nureyev’s Nutcracker for the RB which was televised. I think with Merle Park. It was such a vehicle for him I know, but it managed to be “adult” as well as a great ballet for children.

 

I was lucky to see San Francisco Ballet’s version the other year set in 19th San Francisco - I really liked that too.

 

...and I saw the Hungarian State Ballet - enjoyable and ticked every chocolate box box! 

 

I don’t mind the current RB version - Well I actually like it but it would be like criticising a box of Fortnum and Mason sweets!

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Well I decided that with canceled plans (I was originally going to see My Fair Lady but with both the lead Eliza and understudy out sick my mom decided she wanted a raincheck) plus a nasty persistent virus I decided to compare the Royal Ballet vs. Balanchine version point by point.

 

Hope it's not too long and wordy:

 

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2018/12/comparing-nutcrackers-across-pond.html

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15 hours ago, Ivy Lin said:

Well I decided that with canceled plans (I was originally going to see My Fair Lady but with both the lead Eliza and understudy out sick my mom decided she wanted a raincheck) plus a nasty persistent virus I decided to compare the Royal Ballet vs. Balanchine version point by point.

 

Hope it's not too long and wordy:

 

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2018/12/comparing-nutcrackers-across-pond.html

Hope you are feeling better - and congratulations for your in depth review!

 

Personally I much prefer the  RB version. I find the narrative of  the somewhat older Clara discovering romance, and expressing her youthfulness and joy through dance, generally to be a welcome and cohesive thread throughout the whole ballet. As is the Hans-Peter story and his relationship with Drosselmeyer, whose appearance throught Act 2 keeps the narrative going. 

 

I find there are too many small children in the Balanchine version !  And of course it misses out completely on the beautiful Act 1 PDD between Clara and the released H-P, in which the RB  makes a superb use of  one of Tchaikovsky's loveliest pieces of music. 

 

For me, the RB version looks to have the more accomplished choreography overall. Just one example would be the Arabian  dance with RB's lady entering and leaving sitting high up on one of the three gentlemen's hands held up at full stretch, before engaging on a series of  intricate and sensuous movements. The Balanchine Arabian lady looks a little lost on her own!  

 

Plus I prefer the  RB sets and costumes! 

 

Finally, no I don't see any particular   resemblance between the RB Prince and Joffrey from Game of Thrones - other than they both wear crowns!

 

Happy New Year !

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16 hours ago, Ivy Lin said:

 

What a blummin' good read Ivy.  I have seen (and really don't care for) SPW's production for the RB but I have never seen the Balanchine version so your take on them was really fascinating.

 

It always surprises me that SPW did the version at RB and the version at BRB.  When I saw the cinema relay a couple of years ago I noticed that a number of the diverts in Act 2 of the RB version now match those in the BRB version.

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1 hour ago, Richard LH said:

Hope you are feeling better - and congratulations for your in depth review!

 

Personally I much prefer the  RB version. I find the narrative of  the somewhat older Clara discovering romance, and expressing her youthfulness and joy through dance, generally to be a welcome and cohesive thread throughout the whole ballet. As is the Hans-Peter story and his relationship with Drosselmeyer, whose appearance throught Act 2 keeps the narrative going. 

 

I find there are too many small children in the Balanchine version !  And of course it misses out completely on the beautiful Act 1 PDD between Clara and the released H-P, in which the RB  makes a superb use of  one of Tchaikovsky's loveliest pieces of music. 

 

For me, the RB version looks to have the more accomplished choreography overall. Just one example would be the Arabian  dance with RB's lady entering and leaving sitting high up on one of the three gentlemen's hands held up at full stretch, before engaging on a series of  intricate and sensuous movements. The Balanchine Arabian lady looks a little lost on her own!  

 

Plus I prefer the  RB sets and costumes! 

 

Finally, no I don't see any particular   resemblance between the RB Prince and Joffrey from Game of Thrones - other than they both wear crowns!

 

Happy New Year !

 

I think that for Nutcracker whichever version you grow up with becomes your favorite. It's odd because I don't feel this way about, say, Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. But I have noticed this with Nutcracker above all other ballets ...

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5 minutes ago, Ivy Lin said:

 

I think that for Nutcracker whichever version you grow up with becomes your favorite. It's odd because I don't feel this way about, say, Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. But I have noticed this with Nutcracker above all other ballets ...

 

I think this is because of the association with Christmas. Nutcracker is all pervasive at that time of year — it’s the one ballet

you can sure will be on. If you were taken to see it as a child it’s likely tied into happy memories. Plus, nearly everyone knows most of the music regardless of whether they’ve seen the ballet. 

I do like the RB version because of the distinct narrative of Clara on the cusp of womanhood and I have many good memories of being taken to see it when younger. I go on a total nostalgia trip when I see it now. 

The RB wasn’t the first version I saw, though. I have vague, hazy memories of seeing a version by the London Festival Ballet on the south bank. I think it was one where the SPF (or someone, might not have been her!) came down some steps en pointe. I don’t know which version that was or exactly when it was but think it was early/mid 80s. Is my mind playing tricks – am I conflating it with something else and mixing my ballets or companies up? Perhaps someone here can shed some light on it. I don’t trust my kiddy memories. 🙃 I remember more about the shop than anything else. 😆

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6 minutes ago, Thalia said:

 

I think this is because of the association with Christmas. Nutcracker is all pervasive at that time of year — it’s the one ballet

you can sure will be on. If you were taken to see it as a child it’s likely tied into happy memories. Plus, nearly everyone knows most of the music regardless of whether they’ve seen the ballet. 

I do like the RB version because of the distinct narrative of Clara on the cusp of womanhood and I have many good memories of being taken to see it when younger. I go on a total nostalgia trip when I see it now. 

The RB wasn’t the first version I saw, though. I have vague, hazy memories of seeing a version by the London Festival Ballet on the south bank. I think it was one where the SPF (or someone, might not have been her!) came down some steps en pointe. I don’t know which version that was or exactly when it was but think it was early/mid 80s. Is my mind playing tricks – am I conflating it with something else and mixing my ballets or companies up? Perhaps someone here can shed some light on it. I don’t trust my kiddy memories. 🙃 I remember more about the shop than anything else. 😆

 

Hmm ... coming down steps on pointe is the signature step for Ashton's Cinderella ball entrance ...

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3 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

 

What a blummin' good read Ivy.  I have seen (and really don't care for) SPW's production for the RB but I have never seen the Balanchine version so your take on them was really fascinating.

 

It always surprises me that SPW did the version at RB and the version at BRB.  When I saw the cinema relay a couple of years ago I noticed that a number of the diverts in Act 2 of the RB version now match those in the BRB version.

 

The BRB production and the original RB production both make more sense for the companies he set them for. BRB a smaller company, maybe a more intimate story. RB a bigger company, based on the 1892 notations. However now that he's made a hybrid for the RB it doesn't really work. JMO. 

By the way I love the BRB video with Miyako Yoshida. I think that version really works on its own.

Edited by Ivy Lin
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I also saw the Bolshoi transmission. I thought Shrainer and Chudin were very fine and I like the grand pas de deux with all those fancy lifts but Grigorovich's Nutcracker is not my overall favorite. I always think that their snowflake wigs look like Mrs. Bates.

 

 

 

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My favorites:

 

1. Berlin's Burlaka/Medvedev production (which I just saw again)--it's gorgeous, it has as much of the original choreography as we will ever get, and the Snow scene is exquisite.

 

2.  NYCB's Balanchine--it was the first (and for about 15 years, the only) Nutcracker I saw.  I don't love it as much as I did when I was a child, but it can still enchant, and for me it's the only version where the choreography matches the scope, power and beauty of the Waltz of the Flowers. 

 

3. Ballet Arizona's Andersen--aside from the Balanchine, for me it's the best of the US versions: free of gimmicks, it does the job simply and beautifully.

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Another interesting read and view of the various film clips from the above posts.

 

The first live Nutcracker I saw was the Ronald Hynd 1976 production for the original London Festival Ballet - designs by Peter Docherty.  I remember it looking as if you had opened one of those children’s pop-up fairy tale books at Christmas.  In Hynd’s version Clara was performed by a young student from Arts Ed. School (Tring) and in this version she had an older sister, Louise, performed by a principal dancer.  His version also involved Louise joining in with some of the dances in the final act as the current RB version does.  Again, Hynd used children throughout the production (all from Arts Ed).  I found the production quite magical at the time and remember that there were several great dancers in the company at the time such as Eva Evdokimova, Belinda Wright, Peter Breuer, Patricia Ruanne, Alain Dubreuil, Patrice Bart, Elisabetta Terabust, Kerrison Cooke, Peter Schaufuss, Freya Dominic to name just a few.

 

I’ve always been a fan of Wright’s RB production so that is my other favourite.

 

Not so favourite was the BRB’s one act  production called the ‘Nutcracker Sweeties’ (1997? I think), music by Duke Ellington (the best thing about it!), costumes by Jasper Conran and was choreographed by David Bintley (not his best in my opinion).  I thought it was awful and has it ever been performed again? Did anyone else see it? 

 

Just for interest I managed to find a clip of Hynd’s Nutcracker Act 2 performed by LFB in 1976 (it’s a bit dated of course, but has some fine dancing by the company - and children).  Louise is danced by, but not 100% on that, either Eva Evdokimova or Patricia Ruanne and Terry Hayworth is Drosselmeyer - apologies in advance for the poor sound quality.  I don’t seem to be able to upload the cast list  🤔

 

Happy viewing and looking forward to the start of the Spring 2019 dance season. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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23 minutes ago, Timmie said:

Amelia, do you know how long this is available for as I won't be able to watch for a few days?

 

Hi, Timmie. Information on the Perm Theatre's website is rather vague: this recording will be transmitted at the time when something else is transmitted. Honestly, I failed to understand how it can be traced.

They will also transmit it on 31 Dec. at 19:00 London time but on a Russian channel, so it might not be working for the UK.

I didn't take a chance and watched this streaming today.

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1 hour ago, Springbourne3 said:

Another interesting read and view of the various film clips from the above posts.

 

The first live Nutcracker I saw was the Ronald Hynd 1976 production for the original London Festival Ballet - designs by Peter Docherty.  I remember it looking as if you had opened one of those children’s pop-up fairy tale books at Christmas.  In Hynd’s version Clara was performed by a young student from Arts Ed. School (Tring) and in this version she had an older sister, Louise, performed by a principal dancer.  His version also involved Louise joining in with some of the dances in the final act as the current RB version does.  Again, Hynd used children throughout the production (all from Arts Ed).  I found the production quite magical at the time and remember that there were several great dancers in the company at the time such as Eva Evdokimova, Belinda Wright, Peter Breuer, Patricia Ruanne, Alain Dubreuil, Patrice Bart, Elisabetta Terabust, Kerrison Cooke, Peter Schaufuss, Freya Dominic to name just a few.

 

I’ve always been a fan of Wright’s RB production so that is my other favourite.

 

Not so favourite was the BRB’s one act  production called the ‘Nutcracker Sweeties’ (1997? I think), music by Duke Ellington (the best thing about it!), costumes by Jasper Conran and was choreographed by David Bintley (not his best in my opinion).  I thought it was awful and has it ever been performed again? Did anyone else see it? 

 

Just for interest I managed to find a clip of Hynd’s Nutcracker Act 2 performed by LFB in 1976 (it’s a bit dated of course, but has some fine dancing by the company - and children).  Louise is danced by, but not 100% on that, either Eva Evdokimova or Patricia Ruanne and Terry Hayworth is Drosselmeyer - apologies in advance for the poor sound quality.  I don’t seem to be able to upload the cast list  🤔

 

Happy viewing and looking forward to the start of the Spring 2019 dance season. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi Springbourne3. Hynd's is my favourite production. You can find the entire version (with Evdokimova) on YouTube. I loved reading your post, seeing all those names takes me back to good times! Just one thing though: Clara (and Fritz) was always played by an adult. She only joined in with the Mirlitons, Louise danced the Grand Pas de deux... and it all made perfect sense to me! 

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1 hour ago, Springbourne3 said:

... The first live Nutcracker I saw was the Ronald Hynd 1976 production for the original London Festival Ballet ...

 

Thank you so much, Springbourne3, for writing about that production and, Darlex, for mentioning that it can be found on internet. I have found it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xerl4cej3p4

What a delight to watch Eva Evdokimova with her unique gracefulness and charm.

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3 hours ago, Amelia said:

Those who are not tired of “The Nutcracker” yet can watch now the streaming of a new production from the Perm Opera & Ballet Theatre. Choreography by Alexey Miroshnichenko:

https://yandex.ru/?stream_channel=1544436449&stream_id=45af40d466b1aa08a677cfb39d3a59a4

Thanks for linking to this. I've not seen Perm Ballet before and rather enjoyed their Nut on a wintry Sunday afternoon. Would love to see more of the company some day, they looked rather interesting to me. 

 

The flower costumes were quite something, perhaps a bit bulky but on a level of kitsch that I enjoy entirely unironically.

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2 hours ago, Darlex said:

Just one thing though: Clara (and Fritz) was always played by an adult. She only joined in with the Mirlitons, Louise danced the Grand Pas de deux... and it all made perfect sense to me

Yes - you’re quite right on that - thanks for the update 

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In terms of design and most of choreography I am also a Balanchine/NYCB fan- speaks to my inner child, particularly the Land of Sweets! I adore Peter Wright’s grand pas de deux though - the steps build as the music swells and it is just perfection. I do prefer the designs though for the other productions he has staged. 

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