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The Nutcracker

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The Nutcracker is one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time. It has been adapted into a ballet, as well as many television and movie adaptations.

Original story

The story is adapted from a story written in 1816 by E. T. A. Hoffmann called 'The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which tells the magical tale of a young girl whose Christmas gift, a nutcracker, comes alive.

Hoffmann's story is of a young man, the nephew of an inventor called Herr Drosselmeyer, who fails to complete the task required to marry a princess. As a result, he is cursed by being turned into a nutcracker with a large head, wide grinning mouth, and beard. She rejects him for being ugly and he is banished. Drosselmeyer gives his goddaughter Marie a nutcracker for Christmas and tells her the tale. After various "dreams" in which it comes to life and they defeat the evil Mouse King, Marie tells it that she would never reject him as the princess did but would love him no matter how ugly he was. This breaks the spell and Drosselmeyer arrives with his nephew, magically restored to his handsome self. He marries Marie and takes her away to the magical kingdom.

The Ballet

Nutcracker Ballet-Sugar Plum Fairy

One of the central characters in the second act of the ballet adaptation is the Sugar Plum Fairy.

In 1892, Pytor Ilytch Tchaikovsky set a variation of Hoffmann's story by French author Alexandre Dumas to music. Then, together with renowned choreographer Marius Petipa (working with Lev Ivanov) they created the ballet "The Nutcracker".

The first act begins with a Christmas party at the house of a young girl named Clara's family. Her godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, brings a bunch of amazing toys as gifts, and they all dance. Clara receives a nutcracker as a gift and is enchanted by it. While the other guests are thrilled by this, her brother Fritz is jealous, and he grabs it from her and promptly breaks it. Drosselmeyer comforts the heartbroken Clara by nursing it back to health by tying it back together with his handkerchief.

After the party ends and the guests depart, Clara falls asleep with her nutcracker and a dream sequence begins in which it comes to life. A bunch of mice appear, and a big battle ensues with toy soldiers coming to life, with the Nutcracker as their leader, as he does his best to defend Clara. At the last possible moment, when she sees her beloved toy about to lose, she takes off her slipper, and tosses it at the Mouse King. He and his army are defeated and Clara goes off on a tour of a magical land with the Nutcracker who has become a prince.

The second act is a series of exotic dances there, some of which can be pretty amazing (the Sugar Plum Fairy is one of the attractions) and the music is quite glorious. The conclusion is usually Clara waking up in her chair, still holding the nutcracker; it was all a dream.

In the 1950s, famous choreographer George Balachine created a new version for the New York City Ballet. Many major ballet companies in North America (and some others worldwide) have adopted this version as their own.

Movie and TV Adapations

Television versions of the ballet

  • The Nutcracker (1968) - Rudolph Nuryev and Dame Merle Park (Royal Ballet)
  • The Nutcracker (1977) - Mikail Baryshnikov and Gesley Kirkland (American Ballet Theatre)
  • The Nutcracker: A Fantasy on Ice (1983) - Dorothy Hamill and Robin Cousins, narrated by Lorne Green
  • The Nutcracker (1985) - Julie Rose, Guy Niblett, Anthony Dowell, Leslie Collier (Royal Ballet)
  • The Nutcracker on Ice (1998) - Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Linda Frattiane
  • The Nutcracker (2001) - Hosted by Julie Andrews (Royal Ballet)
  • San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker (2008) - Hosted by Kristi Yamaguchi

Movie adaptations

TV episodes or specials based on the story and/or ballet

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