The Mail on Sunday - Event - - ART -

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.

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