Land of Sweets
December 18, 1892: The Nutcracker debuts at the Imperial Marinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. The two-act ballet was choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It was adapted from ETA Hoffmann’s story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It was presented as a double feature along with Tchaikovsky’s opera, Iolanta. It was not an immediate success, however a twenty-minute suite was extracted from the ballet and did see some measure of approval at the time. The entire ballet has become not only a success, but a part of the Christmas season since the 1960s. Major American ballet companies get nearly 40% of their annual ticket revenue from performances of this delightful ballet.
The ballet takes place on Christmas Eve and opened at the Stahlbaume home which was beautifully decorated for the holiday. The children were brought in to see the decorations and were awed and the party began with the children receiving gifts. As the clock struck eight, Drosselmeyer entered. The magician was also a toymaker and he presented the children with toys which included four life-sized dolls who danced. Then Drosselmeyer brought in a nutcracker carved into the shape of a man. Clara loved it; Fritz intentionally broke it. After everyone went to bed, Clara returned at the stroke of midnight, to check on the broken nutcracker. Clara found herself amidst a battle between gingerbread soldiers and mice, led by the Mouse King. In the next scene, the nutcracker was transformed into a prince.
In the second act, Clara and the Prince traveled to the Land of Sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Prince’s absence. Since it had been Clara who saved the Prince, she was treated with a celebration of sweets from around the world who all danced for the young heroine. The finale was a waltz performed by all the sweets as Clara and the Prince were crowned rulers of the Land of Sweets. Like Swan Lake, there have been various alternative endings to the ballet over time. The original libretto had the ballet’s highpoint represented by “a large beehive with flying bees, closely guarding their riches”.
Petipa was a French ballet dancer, teacher, and choreographer and has been considered to be the most influential ballet master and choreographer. He was the premier maître de ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, a position he held from 1871 until 1903. He retired at the age the age of 85 and died seven years later in 1910. Ivanov was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer and later, Second Balletmaster of the Imperial Ballet. He was credited with the entirety of the original choreography to this ballet since Petipa was in ill health, but that has been disputed in more recent times. He worked with Tchaikovsky previously when he choreographed the Dance of the little swans in Swan Lake. When The Nutcracker premiered, all three men were nearing the end of their careers. Tchaikovsky died in 1893 and Ivanov died in 1903.
The discipline that ballet requires is obsessive. And only the ones who dedicate their whole lives are able to make it. Your toenails fall off and you peel them away and then you’re asked to dance again and keep smiling. I wanted to become a professional ballet dancer. – Penelope Cruz
Ballet is an incredibly difficult, beautiful art form that takes a lot of training, a lot of time, and a lot of hard work. – Sutton Foster
The ballet is a purely female thing; it is a woman, a garden of beautiful flowers, and man is the gardener. – George Balanchine
The ballet needs to tell its own story in such a way it can be received without having to be translated into language. – Twyla Tharp
Also on this day: The Grinch – The Dr. Seuss tales came to television for the first time.
Ancient Pueblo Housing – In 1888, Cliff Palace was discovered.
Nuke Power – In 1957, the first nuclear power plant in the US began producing power.
NFL Playoff – In 1932, the Chicago Bears beat the Portsmouth Spartans.