The month of December is one that is filled with festivities like Christmas and New Year’s Eve! And there’s no other ballet more famous during this season than The Nutcracker.
Beautiful sets of giant christmas trees, life-sized fighting mouse, sparkling white tutu ballerinas floating across the stage as snowflakes, and of course, the ethereal Sugar Plum Fairy. The Nutcracker is a ballet filled with adventures that will leave audiences in awe.
But there’s more to this beloved fairytale…Here are 8 fun facts you probably didn’t know about The Nutcracker!
Fun Fact 1:
The story of The Nutcracker ballet was originated from a story entitled “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, written by E.T.A. Hoffman.
The original story featured the backstory of how the prince became the nutcracker, as well as a bloody battle between the Mouse King’s army and the Nutcracker. As you can tell, the ballet version isn’t as dark as the original!
Fun Fact 2:
The music of The Nutcracker ballet was composed by Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893).
Marius Petipa, the famed Imperial Russian Ballet choreographer, commissioned Tchaikovsky to compose the music for Alexandre Dumas’ (1802-1870) adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” This was set in the year of 1891.
Fun Fact 3:
The Nutcracker ballet was first premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on December 18, 1892. Tchaikovsky’s one-act opera “Iolanta” also performed along with it.
At first, the critics were not impressed and many thought the ballet would never be a success. However, it slowly gained popularity when George Balanchine’s production of the ballet was performed.
As it gained attraction among the audience, The Nutcracker ballet was set as the essential ballet of the Christmas holiday season by the late 1960’s.
Fun Fact 4:
Ever wondered what instrument could possibly make the iconic twinkling sound in “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”?
Well, that is instrument is called a celesta, a somewhat relative of the piano. It is distinguished by its clear, bell-like tone that suited the fairy-tale ambience of The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky smuggled it from Russia into Paris as he wanted to add a unique sound to accompany the ethereal character of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Other than that, he also incorporated children’s toys as instruments in keeping with the tale as a children’s story.
Fun Fact 5:
After Tchaikovsky finished composing the music in 1892, he wrote that he didn’t think it compared to his other scores. He felt that The Nutcracker music was poorer than his previous work which were “Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake”.
Fun Fact 6:
Sadly, Tchaikovsky passed away a little less than a year after the premier of the original 1892 The Nutcracker production. At that time, it wasn’t received well by the critics and things were not looking good.
But little did Tchaikovsky know that within a decade, The Nutcracker ballet would be established as a quintessential holiday tradition! He never knew how big an impact his work would become.
Fun Fact 7:
There were two different choreographers that created The Nutcracker ballet. It was first Choreographer Marius Petipa that created it, however, became ill and withdrew before he could finish it.
During this time, Petipa’s assistant of seven years, Lev Ivanov, stepped in to complete the choreography. Petipa gave Ivanov strict guidelines to follow as he completed it. This was translated into the choreography as stylistically the difference is barely noticeable even though Ivanov’s style of dance differed from Petipa.
Fun Fact 8:
The name of the young heroine who saves the nutcracker prince has changed throughout history. According to the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story, her name was Maria or Marie, and Clara is the name of one of her dolls.
The name Marichen was also used in some German versions.
However, the heroine was affectionately renamed Masha after World War I in Russia
There you have it! Now that you know the 8 fun facts of The Nutcracker, don’t forget to share it to your fellow dance mates who will be performing The Nutcracker this season!
For more ballet fun facts, don’t forget to check out The Fairies of Sleeping Beauty !
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