18 Dec: Introducing The Nutcracker

In this episode we recall the premiere of Tchaikovsky’s seminal ballet ‘The Nutcracker’, on 18th December, 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg. It was NOT a hit.

The composer, who thought the Alexander Dumas source material was slight and childish, only agreed to write the piece if it was shown in a double-bill with his opera, ‘Iolanta’. He certainly didn’t want to repeat the critical failure of his earlier work: a certain ‘Swan Lake’.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how a trip to Paris inspired one of ballet’s most famous moments; check out some of the reviews of the day, when body-shaming ballerinas was evidently not discouraged; and explain how Czar Alexander was (literally) catered for in the stage directions… 

Further Reading:

• “The Nutcracker’s” disturbing origin story: Why this was once the world’s creepiest ballet’ (Salon, 2014): https://www.salon.com/2014/12/24/the_nutcrackers_disturbing_origin_story_why_this_was_once_the_worlds_creepiest_ballet/

• ‘Sweet holiday staple ‘The Nutcracker’ may be darker than you think’ (The Washington Post, 2022): https://www.washingtonpost.com/theater-dance/2022/11/25/nutcracker-history-russian-imperialism/

• ‘Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky / Nina Kaptsova – Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ (2010): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz_f9B4pPtg

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