Pyotr Tchaikovsky / Toer van Schayk, Wayne Eagling
Ballet-feeria in two acts Libretto: Marius Petipa after E.T.A. Hoffmann's story World premiere: Mariinsky Theatre, Sankt Petersburg, 6 December 1892 Polish premiere: Teatr Nowości, Warsaw, 30 December 1922 Premiere of this production: Dutch National Ballet, Amsterdam, 13 December 1996 Premiere by Polish National Ballet: Teatr Wielki, Warsaw, 25 November 2011
Polish National Ballet, Orchestra of the Polish National Opera Students of the Roman Turczynowicz Ballet School, Władysław Skoraczewski "Artos" Children's Choir, Choir Director - Danuta Chmurska, Extras
Photo: Ewa Krasucka Poster for the production, designed by Adam Żebrowski, photo: Johan Vigeveno
Clara - Maria Żuk Prince - Sergey Popov The Nutcracker - Vladimir Yaroshenko Luise, Clara's sister - Magdalena Ciechowicz John, Clara's brother - Bartosz Anczykowski Drosselmeyer - Wojciech Ślęzak Mouse King - Paweł Koncewoj
When Alexandre Dumas (père) finished reading The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A Hoffmann, he called it “the most beautiful fairy tale”, besides immediately translating it into French. It’s exactly this version that composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa read. And that’s how the famous ballet – probably the world’s most popular ballet title – was created; its premiere in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg instantly won the hearts of the audience, especially the children. The current production is the work of Dutchman Toer van Schayk and Canadian Wayne Eagling (until 2012 director of the English National Ballet), who have moved the colourful world of Hoffmann’s novel with Tchaikovsky’s music... to old Warsaw. Children cannot imagine Christmas without The Nutcracker. Neither can adults any more.
From the choreographer and director of the performance:
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which will be premiered by the Polish National Ballet in 2011, is a highly successful version of the tale created by me and Wayne Eagling. It was first performed by Het Nationale Ballet in Amsterdam in 1996. I had originally set the action in Amsterdam. However, for this production in Poland I adapted the setting to 19th century Warsaw. Although the ballet is usually known as The Nutcracker, we wished to honour E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original tale and used the original title The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. I was delighted to find out that Hoffmann had lived in Warsaw, and in all likelihood had conceived the tale there around 1806. Therefore, I felt justified in including Hoffmann, with his famous tomcat Murr, among the guests at the St. Nicholas party, at the home of Hoffmann’s friend Julius Eduard Hitzig, another historical Varsovian figure. Not only the decor, but also parts of the choreography have been adapted or newly created for the Polish production. The Russian ballet scholar and composer Boris Asafiev wrote about The Nutcracker: “It is a rare artistic phenomenon, a symphony of childhood, or rather of the transition period, when the yearnings of a yet unknown adolescence make one restless, but the habits of childhood have not yet been left behind.”
Toer van Schayk
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The bathroom In the bathroom of the Hitzig family home on the bank of the Vistula, Klara, a young girl of thirteen, and her younger brother Jaś have just been bathed by housemaid Marysia, and are being dressed for the St. Nicholas feast to take place that evening. Jaś gets into mischief while his older sister, Luiza, hurries in and out excitedly getting herself ready. Outside snow begins to fall, and the children gaze out through the window, enthralled. At the river Dusk falls, a few people are still skating on the frozen Vistula, while party guests with their children arrive at the Hitzig family house where Klara and Jaś live. The last people to arrive are old Mr. Drosselmeyer, a family friend known as ‘uncle’ to the children, and his young nephew, a midshipman in the navy. The corridor Uncle Drosselmeyer is greeted by Klara and Jaś. Drosselmeyer, an eccentric and faintly mysterious old gentleman with a passion for clocks and mechanical devices, holds the children in thrall with his conjuring tricks. At a certain sign from him the doors in the hall disappear into thin air and they find themselves in the drawing room. The drawing room The party comes to life only after Drosselmeyer, moving stealthily among the motionless guests, has moved the clock forwards. Greetings are exchanged; the room is full of children, friends and cousins of Klara. Suddenly St. Nicholas attended by a devil and an angel enter. At first the children are frightened but are delighted when they are given all kinds of presents. St. Nicholas and his little helpers take their leave, while Drosselmeyer and his nephew bring in a magic lantern. The magic lantern Using lantern slides Drosselmeyer tells the story of the young Princess who rejects the Mouse King’s offer of marriage because she has promised her heart to a handsome Prince. The Mouse King tries to come between them and fights a duel with the Prince, finally casting a spell on him. A flash of light and the Prince is transformed into a wooden doll, a nutcracker. The drawing room The story makes a deep impression on Klara. She feels sorry for the nutcracker doll and is immediately enchanted by him, but her heart is also touched by Drosselmeyer’s nephew and in her imagination, she identifies him with the bewitched Prince. When she finds herself alone with the Nutcracker she dances for him and she is delighted when he starts to move. Jaś comes in and spoils it all by breaking off the Nutcracker’s head. Drosselmeyer consoles Klara and repairs the wooden doll. Klara uses a ribbon to dress the Nutcracker’s wound, and tucks the Nutcracker in her doll’s bed to sleep and get well. All the children are playing with their new toys when they are cruelly disturbed by Jaś and some of the older boys playing soldier. The grown-ups come back into the room, it’s bedtime for the children, and the guests leave. Klara sneaks back in her nightgown, hoping to take the nutcracker doll upstairs with her, but her mother insists that she leaves him in the toy-cupboard. When Klara runs into Drosselmeyer’s nephew, she gives him her hair-ribbon as a romantic keepsake. He is surprised, quite unaware that he had captured the young girl’s heart. Klara’s bedroom Klara is put to bed by maid Marysia. In a nightmare, the Mouse King appears at her bedside. He wants to take her away with him, but when she resists him, he threatens to bite off the Nutcracker’s head. Still in her bad dream, Klara jumps out of bed and runs through the dark house to the drawing room, to save the Nutcracker. The drawing room As Klara peers round the door, the clock strikes twelve, everything around her seems to grow and change shape. To her horror the room fills up with gruesome mice. From the cupboard, which is gradually changing into a fortress, the Nutcracker emerges and comes to her rescue. Sword in hand, he at first strikes fear into the mice, but enormous rats come to their help and Klara and the Nutcracker retreat to the fort. The fort is besieged, and when the toy soldiers attempt a counterattack they are disarmed and little Jaś, their commander, is driven off by the Mouse King. There ensues a duel between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The Nutcracker falls wounded and Klara bravely protects him. Jaś returns, accompanied by mounted hussars, but the Mouse King is too strong. The hussars cannot lift their heavy sabres. The rats and mice are victorious. At the end of the battle, Klara and the wounded Nutcracker are left in despair. The dream within a dream Klara’s nightmare turns into a dream of beauty. As the walls of he drawing room disappear, Klara and the Nutcracker find themselves in a snowcovered pine forest. All troubles fall away, a great love surges up between her and the Nutcracker. But he still suffers from the wound he received in battle, and he collapses. Once again she binds him up with a ribbon and leads him to her bed; she implores Drosselmeyer to make him better. Out of Drosselmeyer’s hand, the Nutcracker emerges as a beautiful Prince; she recognizes the features of Drosselmeyer’s nephew. They declare their love to each other. The snow This lovely dream suddenly changes, amidst the dancing snowflakes, Mouse King returns with his rats. Again he turns the Prince into a nutcracker. The snow temporarily pushes the mice to the background, but not for long because the rats and mice return in force. Just as Klara and the Nutcracker are at their wits’ end, Drosselmeyer appears with his magic lantern which shines brightly with a blinding light. Drosselmeyer takes Klara and the Nutcracker by the hand to seek refuge within the magic.
In the magic lantern Drosselmeyer, Klara and the Nutcracker arrive within the machinery of the magic lantern. This is Drosselmeyer’s realm. He presents Klara and the Nutcracker to his mechanics, who take constant care of the smooth running of the cogwheels. But followed by his retinue of mice, the persistent Mouse King too finds his way into the magic lantern. Drosselmeyer frightens him with images of Hoffmann’s cat Murr. In a last duel, the Nutcracker succeeds in killing the Mouse King, the mice disappear, the spell is broken and the Nutcracker changes for good into the Prince. The machinery of the magic lantern begins to turn by itself, Drosselmeyer and his mechanics are unable to stop it. Images flip in and out, carrying Klara and the Prince on a voyage to exotic countries, where she finds her sister, still pursued by suitors as at the party, and Jaś, sold as a slave to a Turkish pasha by the Mouse King. The machinery of the magic lantern starts to get completely out of control, turning ever faster and more feverishly. Dark couds appear; Klara is lifted up high, falls... and wakes up in her bedroom. The bedroom She sits bolt upright, Jaś comes in and reassures her. Miraculously he has had the same dream. For the first time, Klara and her little brother realize how much they care for each other. Together they go downstairs where all the guests have gone and all is dark. At the river Klara and Jaś open the front door in the middle of the night and step out into the snow. They just catch sight of Drosselmeyer and his nephew, and they wave goodbye, before they walk away into the night.