Magical and beautifully danced production of a ballet masterpiece
The Nutcracker is one of my all time favourite ballets, stories and pieces of classical music, the story has such a timeless charm and Tchaikovsky's score contains some of his best-known music for good reason. While it may not hold the title as the definitive version of The Nutcracker, this 1976 production has a great atmosphere and is beautifully performed and danced, a winner on all levels.
On a visual level, the production values are very traditional(seeing as I have a preference for traditional visuals and staging this was a good thing). Furthermore, they are also good-looking traditional production values. The sets and backdrops are simple but still manage to be colourful and atmospheric, with the stately opening party scene, the darkly suspenseful scene for the Mice(which is lit very darkly but in a way where you could still see what was going on) and vibrant confection-like set for the divertissements and Pas De Deux being examples. The production is also effectively lit, the costumes are suitably tasteful and the photography doesn't ever feel intrusive or superfluous, allowing one to really admire all the dancing and succeeds in using the stage expansively.
A crucial element to a ballet production, perhaps even THE most crucial, is its choreography. The good news is is that the production is well-choreographed with its fair share of lovely moments, it's sensitive to Tchaikovsky's music, it's fun, it's intricate and succeeds in making the story interesting and atmospherically magical as possible. For me, the highlight was the absolutely exquisite Act 2 Pas De Deux, while the Arabian dance is sensual, the Waltz of the Flowers is charming and the Russian Dance is good throwaway fun. Admittedly though, I have seen more interesting choreography for the Mice vs Soldiers battle, it's suspenseful in atmosphere(especially when the Mice first appear) and doesn't ever get goofy but occasionally a touch static and too simple in comparison to the rest of the choreography.
Musically, the production is excellent. Not just Tchaikovsky's score, which is one of the masterpieces in all of ballet, but how it is performed. The orchestral playing sounded very powerful and nuanced, their tone beautiful and strikingly rich in colour, and stylistically it's crisp and energised with smooth, elegant lines when needed. The chorus in Dance of the Snowflakes sounded positively angelic, making for an enchanting finish to Act 1. With the exceptions of the occasionally dreary and not-as-tense-as-it-could-have-been tempo in the Mice vs. Soldiers battle and an oddly slow one for the Russian dance, the conducting is authoritative and accommodating, always giving the music energy, space and atmosphere.
Eva Evdokimova is simply stunning as Clara, with an alluring and poised stage presence that has natural warmth and poignancy, and she dances with impeccable grace and charm throughout. What really stood out was her 'on pointe' footwork, not in a long time have I seen 'on pointe' so controlled and effortlessly elegant, Evdokimova makes it look easy when actually it's very strenuous. Peter Breuer is a boyishly handsome and very charismatic Prince, and his dancing is sympathetic and powerful. The chemistry between the two of them is beautifully magnetic, particularly in the Act 2 Pas De Deux, end of Act 1 was another transport-one-to-another-world moment. The imposing Drosselmeyer, intimidating Mice and characterful Corps-De-ballet also impress, but this is Evdokimova's show.
In conclusion, not the definitive production of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, or the best I've seen, but scores more than excellently in every area so a great production overall. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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