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The Royal's Nutcracker

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I was wondering about The Royal Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" as presented in the film w/ Leslie Collier & Anthony Dowell as the Sugar Plum Fairy & Cavalier. I know that there is also the more recent film of this production w/ that AWESOME ballerina Yoshida as the Sugar Plum Fairy, w/ the more recent changes to the Grand Divertessment of Act II w/ Clara and the Prince in all of the dances (bad idea if you ask me!).

Is this a reconstruction of the orginal 1892 Imperial production? Or is it just merely a parttial reconstruction w/ just some dances? Are the sets/costumes based on the 1892 premiere?

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Not altogether a bad idea when Clara is played by Alina Cojocaru! But a pretty weak Nutcracker, nevertheless.

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Not altogether a bad idea when Clara is played by Alina Cojocaru!  But a pretty weak Nutcracker, nevertheless.

Yes I agree, as she is wonderful, but Clara participating in the Grand Divertessment of "The Nutcracker" seems like something one would see in an amateur ballet recital w/ an audience full of cam corders and a really bad 16 year old ballerina hopping around to a cd of "The Nutcracker".

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I don't think any of it is meant to be a reconstruction.

As wonderful as Cojocaru is as Clara, I rather wish I could see her as Sugarplum instead of Yoshida, whose dancing I find positively soporific on that tape.

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Glancing through the programme from this year (where Clara still did join in) - there doesn't seem to be any 'claim' made to reconstruction either.

Cojocaru is no longer dancing Clara! (Although sometimes she still looks younger than Clara!). Although I've only seen the Royal's Nutcracker live once or twice, it strikes me that it may be more important to pay attention to the cast for Clara and the Nutcracker, rather than anyone else. Steven McRae practically stole the show (or maybe even did!) in the latest performance I saw.

Interesting about Yoshida, Hans, as I tend to find her one of the most accurate and placed dancers at the Royal. That said, her magic and mystery is quite often subtle and classy, which doesn't gain full expression via recording. She positively sparkles in most Ashton.

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The changes to the production - Clara and the Nutcracker taking more part in Act 2 etc - were made a few years ago by the original producer, Peter Wright. He also made some changes to what Drosselmeyer does in Act 1, which look to be based on his own later production for the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The waltz of the snowflakes in the Covent Garden version is the nearest thing to a reconstruction: to quote Roland John Wiley's programme note, "[ivanov's steps and patterns] have been reconstructed for the present revival from choreographic notations of The Nutcracker made in St Petersburg before World War 1 and now in the Harvard Theatre Collection".

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Reconstructing Nutcracker from the Sergeyev notations would be sketchy at best. Some dances are scrupulously recorded, but some are very vacant. The Danse Arabe, for example doesn't have very much in it except floor planning, and occasional instructions written longhand. The mime sequences are not well-recorded there, but the score is full of "action cues" written in by Drigo.

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Yoshida is done no favors in that video, for two reasons:

1. it was originally supposed to be Darcey Bussell, but she cancelled, leaving the tiny Yoshida to dance with Jonathon Cope. You can see how awkward their partnering is.

2. The heavy wig she wears does no favors to her figure, which is considerably more compact than most ballerinas today.

and

3. Sorry to say, but she's just not having a good night. She has a smile plastered on her face the whole time but I sense very little magic from her. For me, a Sugar Plum Fairy should sort of be like exactly that: a Fairy. Slightly otherworldly, waving her wand and making magical things happen.

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Yoshida is done no favors in that video, for two reasons:

1. it was originally supposed to be Darcey Bussell, but she cancelled, leaving the tiny Yoshida to dance with Jonathon Cope. You can see how awkward their partnering is.

2. The heavy wig she wears does no favors to her figure, which is considerably more compact than most ballerinas today.

and

3. Sorry to say, but she's just not having a good night. She has a smile plastered on her face the whole time but I sense very little magic from her. For me, a Sugar Plum Fairy should sort of be like exactly that: a Fairy. Slightly otherworldly, waving her wand and making magical things happen.

I have seen this version twice, and have often wondered about the casting. Thanks for clearing that up.

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Not altogether a bad idea when Clara is played by Alina Cojocaru! But a pretty weak Nutcracker, nevertheless.

I agree! Possibly the weakest version of the Nutcracker I have ever seen. No imagination, no magic, no personality to draw you in! The costumes are hideous (is it really necessary for each and every character to wear a wig??? The snowflakes? The flowers? The sugar plum fairy?) and boring (an all-white second act surely doesn't inspire the children and definitely doesn't bring Tchaikovsky's colorful score to life).

The production is very dated and think needs to be updated (by a different choreographer)! The sad thing is that they advertise it as "the definitive Nutcracker". Really...?

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The wigs are an integral part of the Petipa-Ivanov tradition. Even the current standard Nutcracker in the countries of the former USSR -- the 1932 Vainonen staging from the Kirov-Mariinsky -- is famous for its wigs...most notably the pink "cotton candy" confections in the Rose Waltz. No pink wigs - no Nutcracker! They may be falling apart but they must be seen on the stage old-time Kirov audiences can applaud.

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Ismene Brown, a great supporter of the Wright versions, did a great interview with Sir Peter Wright about the authenticity to the original production in his production. Unfortunately the link for it on the Telegraph's website seems to be down--maybe because it's old (it's from 2000) but maybe it's just temporary.

The link is at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=000148269...8/btnuts18.html If you google Ismene and Wright, Nutcracker you should find quotes. It's an interesting interview although I don't agree with much of Wright's rationale for not using pieces of choreography that do exist.

(For instance he calls the reconstructed Garland Waltz in Mariinsky's Sleeping Beauty too boring for modern audiences--I love it partly for how it's simple and repeated and grows from there--and he claims likewise the original Snowflake choreography would bug modern audiences. Similarly he doesn't like the earlier more faithful Waltz of the Flowers--which I prefer, and says the carefully reconstructed Grand Pas De Deux detail of the Fairy gliding en pointe on the cavalier's scarf never worked which is why he removed it shortly after the first DVD was made--yet I LOVE that detail--which we have a picture of in the original 1892 production, etc).

Basically a fair bit of dance was kept, or they tried to stage authentically, for the original 80s Royal Ballet production by Wright (the patters, if not steps, of the Snow Scene and Waltz of the Flowers, the dolls dance in Act I, the Chinese dance, and the Grand Pas in complete), but by the time he revised it in the 90s MOST of that was thrown out.

I'm very mixed on this production. I love a lot of Act I. I don't care for the new story ideas like the Nutcracker/Droselmeier connection even if they were in the original Hoffman (the ballet is adapted from Alexandre Dumas, pere's simplified adaptation of the Hoffman anyway), I also LOVE all the reconstructed bits, even the somewhat offensive Chinese dance, for their authenticity. I do not like ANY of the changes he made for the more recent stagins--as you can see on the recent DVD--like having Clara and the Prince dance in so many of the divertissements (why?) and I miss some of the charming and more goofy elements--like Mere Gignon. I also think the Kingdom of Sweets colour scheme (pink gold and beige) looks awful on TV although I suspect it probably works a lot better in person. This is all in reference to the 1980s DVD, I have a lot less affection for the revised version.

I do find it a bit odd that Wright set out to stage it as close to the original as possible--and then made so many changes, but I suppose this is his prerogative.

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I also think the Kingdom of Sweets colour scheme (pink gold and beige) looks awful on TV although I suspect it probably works a lot better in person.

You know...? This controversial color scheme has actually always worked for me. The dancers, particularly in the PDD, look like cake or porcelain figurines, with the whites wigs and all...which gives them sort of a "non-human" looking...which i LOVED! .. :wub:

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Did you grow up with the designs? That may play a part. I grew up with Alberta Ballet's local production which was basically based on Balanchine's and was COLOURFUL. Also, seeing how much the original Sleeping Beauty designs LOVED crazy bright colours, I suspect that the Kingdom of Sweets was filled with bright colours too (I've seen the set design, which is odd to say the least, but only in black and white). And being a fan of Mere Gigogne/Mother Ginger, I think one reason she's not use din the Royal ballet's production is she'd clash with their colour scheme ;) Actually in the interview I tried to link to above, Wright mentions how oppulent and colourful and LUSH the original production's Act II was.

That said I kinda get the Royal design--and isn't there a cake in Act I that looks just like it? And I suspect it looks better in person than on my TV (where Sugar Plum and her Prince Cocaluche sorta fade into the background)...

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