Uncracking the Nutcracker

drosselmayer

Čajkovskij repeatedly sought to abandon work on Ŝelkunčik (The nutcracker), and complained bitterly to the Director of Imperial Theaters; the reasons why he begged to be released from the project, or why he ultimately persevered, remain unknown.

The problems probably involved the libretto, which the fastidious composer may well have found vexing. Parts of it lack any rationale, the balance of mime and dance is lopsided, and the overall arc of the story is incoherent, with several essential plot elements entirely missing.

These problems can be resolved by rendering most of the ballet as Drosselmayer’s thoughts rather than Clara’s dream. One can easily imagine the composer taking delight in this solution.

This according to “On meaning in Nutcracker” by Roland John Wiley (Dance research: The journal of the Society for Dance Research III/1 (fall 1984) pp. 3–28). Above, Michael Smith as Drosselmayer in the Joffrey Ballet’s production; below, another alternative take on the work.

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