I remember being absolutely enchanted by everything, from the set and the costumes to the story and the music – and the dance! Oh, the dance. If only I’d had the talent and the discipline, I would have loved to have been a ballerina. As it is, I have been happy to let that dream go and to be a writer, but I have never lost the great passion for ballet that was sparked by Clara of The Nutcracker all those years ago.
It was the German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann who created The Nutcracker, the story of a little girl whose favourite toy comes alive on Christmas Eve and transports her to a magical kingdom of dolls. Since he penned the story, back in 1816, Hoffmann has inspired many different creatives to adapt and reimagine his story world.
Here are five versions of The Nutcracker that encapsulate all the magic and wonder of this Christmas story.
The Nutcracker Penguin Classics book
This hardback edition of Hoffmann’s original text is beautifully designed and expertly translated by the award-winning Joachim Neugroschel. It’s one of six special-edition ‘Penguin Christmas Classics’.
The Nutcracker ballet
The ballet – originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanovis and since choreographed by many great names of the dance world – is widely performed all over the world during the Christmas period. This year, of course, that has proved impossible, but various recordings of performances are available. The following is a Russian State Ballet and Opera House production. The dancing is absolutely beautiful.
The Nutcracker New York City Ballet children’s book
This children’s book is based on George Balanchine’s production of The Nutcracker, and the illustrations, by Valeria Docampo, are exquisite. The choreography of the characters and the backdrops in the scenes are based on the actual Balanchine production.
The Nutcracker score
Following the success of The Sleeping Beauty in 1890, the director of the Imperial Theatres in Russia directed Tchaikovsky to write music for a new ballet to be based on the story of Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. After its premiere in 1892, The Nutcracker wasn’t viewed as a success, but Tchaikovsky’s score went on to become one of his most enduring and well-loved compositions, particularly for ‘The Trepak’ (Russian Dance), the ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ and the ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’. Orchestras the world over have recorded Tchaikovsky’s suite for The Nutcracker. My own recording is by the Berlin Philharmonic.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms film
For a new take on The Nutcracker, try The Nutcracker and the Four Realms movie. From Disney:
‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ follows the adventures of Clara, as she goes in search of a key to unlock a box that contains a gift from her mother.
At her godfather Drosselmeyer’s annual holiday party, a gold thread leads her to the key – but it immediately vanishes into a strange parallel world. Clara will have to brave its dangerous Fourth Realm to retrieve her key and, hopefully, return harmony to the world.
It’s wonderful to see that this 1816 story continues to inspire and thrill. Which version most captures your imagination?