Go to the Teatro Massimo Archive homepage
2, 3, 4, 6, 27, 28, 29, 30 December 2005
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Nutcracker
Ballet in two acts, three scenes from the original text The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann
Libretto by Marius Petipa
Conductor Mikhail Agrest
Coreographer and director Amedeo Amodio
Set and Costumes Designer Emanuele Luzzati
Shadow Theatre Devising Teatro Gioco Vita
Shadow Theatre Staging L'Asina sull'Isola
Musical Interludes Giuseppe Calì
Narrator Gabriella Bartolomei
Lights Designer Bruno Ciulli
Ballet Master Luciano Cannito

Teatro Massimo Orchestra, Ballet, Young dancers and Youth Chorus

Production by Fondazione Nazionale della Danza
Compagnia Aterballetto - Reggio Emilia


Guest Etoile Viviana Durante 2,3,4,6 December
Robert Tewsley 2,3,4,6 December
Guests Soloists Maria Gutierrez 27,28,29,30 December
Breno Bittencourt 27,28,29,30 December


Friday 2 December 8.30 pm PREMIERE
Saturday 3 December 8.30 pm F
Sunday 4 December 5.30 pm D
Tuesday 6 December 6.30 pm E
Tuesday 27 December 6.30 pm B
Wednesday 28 December 6.30 pm S/2
Thursday 29 December 6.30 pm C
Friday 30 December 6.30 pm S/3


(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Pictures from the ballet 'The Nutcracker'

Pictures Franco Lannino ©Studio Camera

Act I
It is Christmas Eve.
Herr Drosselmeier, godfather of Clara and Fritz, is singing the clock-maker’s song.
Clara and Fritz bubble with excitement because Christmas is almost here and they cannot wait to see their presents. Later, they fall asleep and are carried into the world of dreams. The guests arrive. They bring presents wrapped up in boxes which look enormous and wonderful to the two children. To liven up the party, Herr Drosselmeier tells the story of the hard Krakatuk nut. «Once upon a time, there lived a king and queen with a beautiful daughter, the princess Pirlipat. One day, while the queen was preparing a delicious meal for her royal consort, the mouse queen, Mauserinks, and her swarm of mice, carne and ate up all the lard that the queen was going to use to flavour the king’s meal. The king was furious and, following the advice of Herr Drosselmeier, the court clock-maker, had all the mice caught in traps. Only Mauserinks managed to escape and swore revenge. One night, despite the many nurses and cats that had been ordered to protect the beautiful princess Pirlipat, the mouse queen stole up to the cradle and turned the beautiful child into a monstrous creature».
The story frightens Clara and so Drosselmeier decides to interrupt it so as not to spoil the festivities. He starts presenting his gifts: a Harlequin doll, a Toy Soldier and a Nutcracker, clockwork toys so well made that they look like real people. The children are enthralled in particular by the Nutcracker. They start quarrelling over it, grabbing it from each other’s hands until, Fritz, in a fit of temper, breaks it.
Herr Drosselmeier comes to the rescue, fixes the Nutcracker and decides to give it to Clara, telling her to keep it and look after it.
The young girl’s sadness vanishes as she introduces her new friend to her toy doll and plays happily with them. Suddenly, amid eerie squeaks and rustling sounds, strange shapes begin scampering about the room. Mice! Clara is gripped by fear which gives way to curiosity and amazement as Fritz’s toys come to life and engage a furious baule against the invading mice. Her Nutcracker is the bravest of all the toys and boldly leads the toy army to victory over the mice.

Outside, it is beginning to snow. Clara is captivated by her new-found, brave friend and the two of them ride away on horseback.

Act II
The journey of Clara and the Nutcracker continues and, as they travel, the Nutcracker tells her his story: «... the court astronomer was summoned to find the cure to the princess Pirlipat’s ghastly appearance. To cure the princess, it was necessary to find the hard Krakatuk nut, the hardest nut in the world, and a youth who could crack its shell with his teeth in order to give its kernel to the princess. For fifteen years, the astronomer and the clock-maker travelled the world far and wide. They passed through Spain, China, Russia, Arabia and reached as far as the Land of the dancing flowers. At last, they found the nut and the youth who could crack its shell, who was none other than the clock-maker’s nephew. The young Drosselmeier succeeded in cracking the shell of the Krakatuk nut but while he was taking the kernel to Pirlipat, he accidentally stepped on and fatally wounded Mauserinks. Before dying, the mouse queen cast another vengeful spell which transformed the handsome youth into an ugly nutcracker».
Clara is fascinated. She feels she is living in fairy-tale world in which she is the princess and Nutcracker is her handsome and fearless prince charming. The Christmas party is almost at an end: Clara wakes up. It has all been a dream. She is startled back to the reality of guests, presents and dancing. When the party is over and the guests have all left, the young girl remains alone, pondering over her dream and her young hero. While she is thus engrossed in her thoughts, Herr Drosselmeier and his young nephewenter. Clara looks at the young man and recognizes in him her beloved Nutcracker.


Following the success in St. Petersburg in 1890 with Sleeping Beauty, produced at the Marijinskij theatre, the choreographer Marius Petipa, wishing to continue his collaboration with Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, suggested to the composer that he could write music for a new ballet to perform during the 1892 season at the Marijinskij theatre. The opportuntity to carry out this new work was offered by Prince Vsevolojskij, director of the Imperial theatres, who suggested “Nutcracker and the King of the rats” by E.T.A. Hoffmann  as a subject, a piece of literature which he had read in the French version Dumas père. At first neither Petipa nor Tchaikovsky showed any enthusiasm at all about working with this material - the part of Marie didn’t seem to be a role easily assigned to a ballerina, and there didn’t seem to be a character appropriately suited to dance a grand-pas-de-deux with her. However, Prince Vsevolojskij’s insistence did succeed in convincing the choreographer, who created a libretto in which – as well as creating the character of the sugar plum fairy – the disquieting aspects of the tale were put to a side, and instead, given a magical atmosphere that is present in the whole narrative in which emphasis is given to sentimental and dreamy qualities.

But this alone was not sufficient to convince Tchaikovsky himself; in the end it was down to Vsevolojskij,  who commissioned a one-act opera Iolanthe and managed to hold sway and persuade the composer to also dedicate himself to the Nutcracker project. But despite the prince’s inventive idea, the composer, by now advanced in years, and weary, pointed out various doubts about the merits of his score during the whole period he was working on it, and only on completion of the orchestral score did he realise its actual beauty. Choosing to emphasise the fairy tale aspect of the Nutcracker, Petipa, in effect, did not stick by the disquieting elements of the tale in which an interlaced web of psychoanalystic and noir elements were present. Some of these elements, in later choreographic versions, have been replaced, interpreting the ballet as an allegory of fear and disquiet during infancy and the initiative role of love in life’s journey.. In this way it can be transformed into a “danced fairy tale” which has a special appeal to children.

In fact it’s not by chance that the Nutcracker is the most-performed show during the Christmas period. Preceded by the performance of the symphonic suite at the Imperial Society of Music, where achieved an overwhelming success, the Nutcracker was staged on the 18th of December 1892 at the Marijinskij theatre in St. Petersburg, together with the first performance of Iolanthe, with a choreography created by Petipa and Lev Ivanov, with a scoring for piano duet. The collaboration  of Ivanov was rendered necessary because of an illness suffered by Petipa during this period. Despite this public success, which equalled that of “Sleeping Beauty”, and the appreciation of Czar Alexander III, it was not sustained by the critics themselves (probably because it was overshadowed by Iolanthe), but in any case was subsequently taken up by many ballet companies and now has universal popularity.                                                                                                                         

Marcella Musacchia