1. It wasn’t originally created for children
Although most of us think of The Nutcracker as a family favourite, it was never composed for children and was actually a surprisingly dark tale about how nightmares can expose our greatest fears.
2. The voice of the Sugar Plum Fairy
While travelling through Paris in 1891, Tchaikovsky discovered a new instrument – the celesta – which he recognised as the voice of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Its clear, bell-like sound was perfect for The Nutcracker’s fairy tale feel and he immediately asked his publisher to source the instrument.
3. Tchaikovsky didn’t think it was his best work
After completing The Nutcracker in 1892, composer Tchaikovsky wrote that he felt the music was ‘infinitely worse’ than that of Sleeping Beauty which he composed two years previously. The Nutcracker was the last of his three ballets – the first being Swan Lake.
4. It was panned by critics
Tchaikovsky himself was critical of the performance when it debuted in St Petersburg in 1892, writing that the ballet turned out to be rather boring. The critics weren’t impressed by the scenery and costumes either, and the ballerina who danced the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy was widely criticised.
5. Most frequently performed ballet
Despite its initial failure to impress, The Nutcracker has become the most frequently performed ballet, most notably at Christmas, thanks to the first act being set at a Christmas party.
6. The first full-length production was performed in the USA
The Nutcracker wasn’t performed outside of Russia until in 1934 when it came to Britain, however the first full-length production was performed in the USA in 1944, at the San Francisco Opera Ballet.
7. Many small parts
The Nutcracker features many small parts in addition to the main characters, including toys, flowers, toy soldiers, fairies, mice and snowflakes. In fact, for an effective dance performance, no fewer than 20 children dancing as snowflakes are needed.
8. Macauley Culkin – but not as you know him
Much of the success of The Nutcracker outside Russia can be attributed to choreographer George Balanchine, who created a production for the New York Ballet in 1954. In 1993, this version was made into a film, featuring student of the Balanchine Ballet School and child actor extraordinaire, Macauley Culkin who played the part of the prince.
AND IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT GIFT FOR A FAN OF THE NUTCRACKER, LOOK NO FURTHER…