Nutcracker Ballet Trivia

10 Facts and Details About The Nutcracker Ballet

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The classic fairy-tale ballet "The Nutcracker," popular the world over and performed at Christmas time, revolves around the personal awakening of a young girl over one Christmas holiday. The well-known Christmas story has been published in books, including colorful books for children. It has become the most-frequently performed ballet in the world.

Nutcracker Fact 1

In 1891, world-renowned Imperial Russian Ballet choreographer Marius Petipa commissioned Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) to compose the music for Alexandre Dumas’ (1802-1870) adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s (1776-1882) fantasy story “​The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”

Nutcracker Fact 2

The story is about a girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and wages a battle against the evil Mouse King. Hoffman's original work showed humanity's dark-sided nature and was definitely not appropriate for children. Choreographer Petipa chose to follow a light adaptation of the story written by Dumas--a prolific French author in the 19th century.

Nutcracker Fact 3

"The Nutcracker" ballet premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on December 18, 1892. It was performed along with Tchaikovsky's one-act opera "Iolanta."

Nutcracker Fact 4

In 1892, Tchaikovsky finished composing the music for "The Nutcracker." Afterward, he wrote that he felt the fairy-tale's music was "infinitely poorer" than that of "Sleeping Beauty," which he finished two years prior. It was the last of his three ballets--the first of which was "Swan Lake."

Nutcracker Fact 5

Tchaikovsky based the "voice" of the Sugar Plum Fairy on a new instrument he discovered in Paris: the celesta. The instrument had a clear, bell-like tone with ethereal notes, perfect for the fairy-tale ambiance of "The Nutcracker." He also used children's toys as instruments in keeping with the tale as a children's story.

Nutcracker Fact 6

Despite Tchaikovsky's feelings toward the music in "The Nutcracker," he released "The Nutcracker Suite" prior to the ballet's premiere. The suite was a success.

Nutcracker Fact 7

Without Ivan Alexandrovitch Vsevolojsky, "The Nutcracker" ballet may not have happened. He was responsible for gathering and securing the artists and talent involved with creating the ballet.

Nutcracker Fact 8

Choreographer Petipa became ill during the creation of "The Nutcracker" and withdrew. His assistant of seven years, Lev Ivanov, took his place and completed the choreography. Though Ivanov's style of dance differed from Petipa, it was hardly noticeable, as Petipa left strict guidelines for Ivanov to follow.

Nutcracker Fact 9

The first performance of the Christmas ballet was conducted by Riccardo Drigo. Antoinetta Dell-Era was the Sugar Plum Fairy and Pavel Gerdt was her prince. Stanislava Belinskaya played Clara/Masha, Sergei Legat was the Nutcracker prince and Timofei Stukolkin was Uncle Drosselmeyer.

Nutcracker Fact 10

The Christmas ballet was first performed outside of Russia in England in 1934, but the full-length production first appeared in the United States in 1944 at the San Francisco Opera Ballet under the direction of William Christensen.