RUPERDTACHNRICSTEIANSEN SHOW OF THE WEEK
If you’re hankering after an old-fashioned Christmas treat, free of gimmicks, gizmos or dirty jokes, you just can’t beat this Nutcracker.
Created by Peter Wright and designed by Julia Trevelyan Oman, it evokes a German provincial household in the early 19th century before moving through a series of spectacular transformation scenes into the gilded fantasy world of the Kingdom of Sweets. And what a magical journey it is: the scene in which the Stahlbaum family’s Christmas tree expands to skyscraper proportions, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s nobly swelling music, is heartstoppingly beautiful. No less impressive is the exuberant final ensemble in which Clara bids farewell to her dream companions and returns to the snowy reality of her home town.
Without dishonouring tradition, Wright has
Royal Opera House, London Until Jan 15
subtly moulded the thin and illogical plot of the original Russian version into a coherent narrative. There is a wealth of superb choreography and first-class dancers. Yes, this is a masterpiece. No wonder the Royal Ballet revives it year after sell-out year. This Christmas the company fields a wealth of alternating casts, including Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Marcelino Sambé, left, with the orchestra providing a most delicate account of Tchaikovsky’s jewelbox of a score. I caught the lovely young British ballerina Yasmine Naghdi as the most sophisticated and scintillating of Sugar Plum Fairies, impeccably partnered by Ryoichi Hirano. Emma Maguire made an enchanting Clara, shyly infatuated with Luca Acri’s nimble Nutcracker Prince. Plenty of productions of The Nutcracker do the rounds at this time of year: all of them have their charms, but this is the gold standard.