Popular ballet, The Nutcracker, represents the culmination of a traditional Central European story that has been repeated with variations of fairytales, local legends, musical and theatrical works, puppeteers, cartoons, and movies, among others. Like many of these medieval tales, it seeks to educate new generations about the values present in the society of the time. The Nutcracker is another chapter in the eternal struggle between good and evil, the paradoxes of beauty and the grotesque, light and shadows.
Today, the Nutcracker, a very special Christmas story, reminds us about family sharing, the triumph of true love and the common struggle in friendship against adversity continue to be the values that are as current, necessary, and redeemable as in the 19th century when they flourished. The Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote the music for this wonderful ballet in 1892. He borrowed the original story from the German author Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, who published it in 1816, under the title The Nutcracker and the King of Mice.
In the book, it is said that the family of medical advisor Stahlbaum would celebrate Christmas Eve. Godfather Drosselmeyer, a magical craftsman of toys and mechanical devices such as watches, arrives at the party with very special gifts for his godchildren; Marie, 7 years old, her sister Luise and Fritz, her older brother. In the ballet, the protagonist alongside Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker is Clare, one of Marie's dolls.
Returning to the book, her godfather gave them several toys. A castle full of mechanical figures that simulated a dance and children's game, which quickly bored the little ones, despite being a functional marvel. Several dolls and a disproportionate nutcracker, which was ugly but Marie liked ever since, reminded her of her godfather and creator, who too, was not good-looking but had a big heart. Fritz, playing with him and cracking nuts, broke his tooth and dismantled his jaw and shoulders. Marie, brave and determined, protected him and her father supported her without hesitation. At the ballet, her godfather repairs it, while Marie sleeps.
After playing until they were tired, the exhausted children went to sleep, and Marie fell asleep hugging the nutcracker. The candlelight went out and darkness and shadows embraced the environment. Marie entered the world of dreams and lived one of them, as if it was just another day in her life. In the world of dreams, everything is possible, including being as we really are. Out of the shadows, appears the Mouse King and his army of rodents. They attack and battle breaks out. The Nutcracker defends and does so, leading the toy armies of Marie's brother Fritz.
In the book, the Nutcracker loses his first battle but succeeds in the end. In Tchaikovsky's ballet, Clare kills the Mouse King with a shoe to the head. Her rodent army gives him a proper funeral and the winners enjoy her victory. They enjoy it in even deeper and more distant dreams. The Nutcracker transforms into the prince and together, he and Clare travel to two spectacular places. First, to the northern lands which are always snowy it seems quite a mystical experience. Secondly, to the world of sweets and treats. Their ruler, the Sugar Plum Fairy, organizes a party with six dances in honor of the couple.
The first dance, the most delicious of all, is the Spanish dance; Hispanic in every sense. Deeply mestizo like chocolate and castanets. Then he wraps the Arabian dance like an elegant veil. Mysterious and prudent. Russian dance is Cossack and vigorous. The Chinese dance or tea dance is playful and curious. Finally, two very beautiful and popular ones, the flute dance, and the flower waltz. Sublime and subtle. A real Fantasy of the 40s for the world of Disney.
Since this ballet opened in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia, its popularity has continued to grow. Initially, in Europe and then in America. Probably the lack of attention that the Bolshevik Revolution paid to the tsarist composer Tchaikovsky, produced the opposite effect in the West. Today it is one of the most essential artistic performances at Christmas around the world.
The Nutcracker reminds us that we were all children once, that we always have one inside us and that we enjoy the magic of Christmas to the fullest in our circumstances. Many of us have not wanted to grow up listening to the music of the Russian composer and others, but we return to our childhood every year, in this time of love, dreams and detachment. Merry Christmas to all.