The Nutcracker

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The Nutcracker

Pyotr IIyich Tchaikovsky
New York City Ballet 2011
George Balanchine
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Conductor: Fayçal Karoui

Orchestra: New York City Ballet Orchestra

Artists: Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, Ashley Bouder, New York City Ballet

The New York City Ballet gave its first annual performance of George Balanchine's reworked staging of The Nutcracker in February 1954. The performance of Marie in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy helped elevate the work from obscurity into an annual Christmas classic, and the industry's most reliable box-office draw. Critic Walter Terry remarked "Maria Tallchief, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, is herself a creature of magic, dancing the seemingly impossible with effortless beauty of movement, electrifying us with her brilliance, enchanting us with her radiance of being. Does she have any equals anywhere, inside or outside of fairyland? While watching the 2011 cast with Megan Fairchild, everyone agreed that there is a new Sugar Plum Fairy. 

90 dancers, 62 musicians, 40 stagehands and more than 125 children, in two alternating casts, from the School of American Ballet join forces to make each performance as magical as possible. 

Children of all ages from New York City and the around the world fill the David H. Koch Theater to be captivated by the lure of Tschaikovsky's music, Balanchine's choreography, Karinska's sumptuous costumes, and Rouben Ter-Arutunian's magical sets. George Balanchine's The Nutcracker®, based on the Alexandre Dumas père version of E.T.A. Hoffmann's tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816), demands a full-scale production.

The elaborate stage elements and intricate lighting unleash the viewers' imagination by providing visual effects that are extraordinarily grand. The most famous example is the one-ton Christmas tree that grows from a height of 12 feet to 41 feet, evoking audible gasps of disbelief from the audience at each performance. Other notable features include the comic figure of Mother Ginger — 85 pounds and nine feet wide, the costume requires handling by three people once it is lowered by pulley over the dancer's head — as well as the continuous flutter of the purest, crystal-shaped snowflakes (which are swept up and conserved after each performance for reuse). 

While these technical achievements are wonderful fun, it is Balanchine's choreography that sustains the ballet through two acts. Act I introduces the characters — the Stahlbaum children, Marie and Fritz, Herr Drosselmeier and his Nephew — and also begins the transition from reality into fantasy with the concluding Snowflake Waltz. Act II offers the complete transformation. We have entered the "Kingdom of the Sugarplum Fairy" and there is no turning back.