In 1892, Tchaikovsky presented his ballet The Nutcracker, inspired by ETA Hoffmann’s story, to the public. He received instant acclaim, but little did the composer know that the tale would become such a Christmas tradition. The Nutcracker is now one of the most popular ballet works ever, and parts it are also familiar even to non-ballet enthusiasts. Choreographer Youri Vàmos combined the original theme with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, creating a distinctive version of the story, which has become an annual hit of the National Theatre.
The fairy tale is set in 19th century London at Christmas time. Everyone is enjoying the festive and idyllic atmosphere – apart from malevolent miser Scrooge. He has no hesitation in recovering debts on Christmas day. When he sacks his employee Bob Cratchit, who loses money and thus cannot buy his daughter Clara a nutcracker, the poor girl goes to see Scrooge herself. She wants to him to give the nutcracker to her as a gift. But he breaks it in front of her. The following night, the miser has terrible dreams of hell, from which he is released by the Ghost of Christmas, who immediately leads him to all the children in the area; Scrooge feels a joy that he has never experienced before and gives gifts to everyone. And once he wakes up from his dream, he decides to make this happen…
Vàmos’s production combines enlightening and uplifting stories with classical ballet aesthetics. He uses a varied range of costumes, including period clothing and ethereally simple ballet dresses. The costumes are enhanced by the sculpted set design, by Michael Scott, which draws us into the mysterious setting of an old English town. The unforgettable compositions are accompanied by the famous soldiers’ dance, the gentle duet of Clara and the nutcracker, which has come to life, and the jaunty number of Scrooge and the children in the second act. The Nutcracker conveys, through music and dance, the need for personal transformation when we are focusing too much on ourselves and looking down on others. Although such a challenge is constant, this message is underlined by the atmosphere of Christmas and the transition into a new year. A time when every person in the audience – drawn into the magical time when this ballet is set – longs for transformation and deeper sense of togetherness with others.
The ballet is performed in two acts by the National Ballet and the National Theatre Ballet Preparatory School, accompanied by the Orchestra of the National Theatre and the Prague Philharmonic Children’s Choir.