ord7916

Nutcracker

39 posts in this topic

Not sure which forum this one belongs in:

My original thought was to avoid The Nutcracker, since I'm not exactly fond of an audience full of tots and their parents. But now I'm having second thoughts.

If you had to choose NYCB or ABT, which would it be?

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NYCB is the "classic" and for a first Nutcracker that would be my choice. But for a beautiful variant, I would go to see ABT's Nutcracker, especially with the Veronika Part/Marcelo Gomes cast, which is a partnership made in heaven if it would only grow and endure.

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I'd go to see ABT's, but only because I've seen NYCB's dozens of times, between NYCB and Oregon Ballet Theatre.

NYCB's is available in an okay movie version, but one that should give you a gist of the choreography. You might be able to rent it on Netflix or take it out of the library.

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Definitely NYCB. It's magical. I generally don't find the kids in the audience to be overly noisy or rambunctious. The ABT version leaves me flat.

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It might depend on how you look at ballet. Personally, I look to see how the choreographer hears the music (and whether the dancers do). Balanchine's is the "most musical" i.e. musically aware, for me; it looks throughout like he's following Tchaikovsky's directions. Is ABT doing the Baryshnikov version still? It always looked "explained" in that it showed Drosselmayer in control of everything. Balanchine's is magical, by contrast, yes.

(The 1993 Warner Brothers DVD Helene is probably referring to has superb dancing by Kyra Nichols among many other virtues, not to mention generally good camerawork directed by Emil Ardolino. Well worth the "ticket price," that one. The recent PBS one NYCB did in 2011, also on a DVD I think, I'd skip.)

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Definitely go see the NYCB one. That's the gold standard of Nutcrackers, especially if you're bringing along kids. It's very family friendly and the NYCB casts nowadays are great. The Ratmansky version has a darker edge and the staging is not as beautiful or magical. I'd say it's a good version for people already familiar with the NYCB Nutcracker, but I'd always use the NYCB Nutcracker as my "intro" version.

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Seems rather unanimous. However, it looks like NYCB tickets are in short supply and the prices are much higher than ABT. Why is that?

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NYCB. I've seen a few Nutcracker productions that I liked very much, but Balachine's version is the only one I adore.

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Also, Balanchine's Nutcracker adheres much more closely to the original Ivanov choreography. The storyline follows the original Nutcracker more closely, and the choreography does as well. The mime of the prince, the candy cane variation, and many parts of the grand pas de deux (including the Sugar Plum Fairy being slid along the floor and the shoulder jump lifts) are part of the Ivanov notation and things that he danced while a student. So the Balanchine Nutcracker is maybe a more "authentic" Nutcracker experience, whereas the Ratmansky has a lot of Soviet influences (like making it a love story fantasy).

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it looks like NYCB tickets are in short supply

If you choose a weeknight performance early in the run or a show after Christmas you should have little trouble buying tickets.

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While kids can be there on any night, there tends to be more of them on matinee weekends.

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I think I was one of the few people who was underwhelmed by the ABT / Ratmansky Nutcracker when it was first presented. Most of my issues are theatrical rather than choreographic, though I have issues there as well. (Note: I saw the ABT / Ratmansky Nutcracker in its first season, so some of the details may have changed since then.)

There isn’t a lot of magic in the production’s sets: the Land of Sweets, for instance, appears to be located in a tidy but minor manor park behind some unexceptional wrought-iron gates. Ho-hum. Some of this may be due to budgetary constraints, some to the scale and stage machinery of the BAM opera house. (Some of the choreography looks like it was purpose built for a smaller stage, too.) It doesn’t help that some of the big set pieces – the battle with the Mouse King, e.g. – are a narrative muddle. And I could live without the bees in the Waltz of the Flowers. The joke wears thin really fast.

What I found most disconcerting was Ratmansky’s decision to have Clara (I think she’s Clara in the ABT version) and the Nutcracker Prince almost die at the hands of the Snowflakes, only to be rescued at the last minute by Drosselmeyer and carted off to the Minor Manor Park of Sweets. Now, there is a bit of menace in the Snowflakes’ music, and Russian winters are notorious in their deadly power (just ask Napoleon) but the interpolation of a near-tragedy takes the dramatic focus off of the triumph over the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Prince’s magic transformation. AND it makes the Nutcracker Prince’s mimed retelling of the battle total nonsense theatrically: at that point, wouldn’t he be recounting his just-minutes-ago near-death experience?

AND IT JUST KILLS ME (sorry for shouting) that the kids have to be rescued by some grown-up just when we should be glorying in their own agency and their independence from adult ministrations. They slew the evil villain on their own, thank you very much. My absolute favorite thing about the Balanchine version is that there are no human grown-ups in the Land of Sweets and that the Sugar Plum Fairy treats Marie and the Nutcracker Prince as if they were her peers and her honored guests, not kids deposited in her charge. A good Sugar Plum treats the Prince’s narration like it’s the most gripping battlefield report she’s ever gotten. It’s not even clear that the children ever return to the Stahlbaum’s cozy bourgeois milieu: when we last see them they are taking off in a magic sleigh for who knows what adventure and are still very much a royal pair.

For related reasons I’m not enthusiastic about Ratmansky’s handing over the big pas de deux over to Clara’s vision of her grown up self dancing with a grown-up beau. It signals a return to the real, un-magical, grown-up world. It’s not an unreasonable direction to go in, of course; I just prefer it to be magic all the way down. Ratmansky’s version is very resolutely focused on real, lived human life. (The Sugar Plum Fairy is, if I recall correctly, a non-dancing role. She seems kind of like an auntie.)

If you want to see a different (but not outré) take on the story, by all means go to the ABT version — there’s definitely good stuff in it. If you want to revel in traditional Nutcracker magic, the NYCB version might be a better bet.

I happen to like it when there are tons of kids in the audience, especially when they are really, really into the story.

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My absolute favorite thing about the Balanchine version is that there are no human grown-ups in the Land of Sweets and that the Sugar Plum Fairy treats Marie and the Nutcracker Prince as if they were her peers and her honored guests, not kids deposited in her charge.

The set designer does put Marie and the Nutcracker Prince in a gloried high-chair, though smile.png

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My absolute favorite thing about the Balanchine version is that there are no human grown-ups in the Land of Sweets and that the Sugar Plum Fairy treats Marie and the Nutcracker Prince as if they were her peers and her honored guests, not kids deposited in her charge.

The set designer does put Marie and the Nutcracker Prince in a gloried high-chair, though smile.png

Hmmm ...now that you mention it ... I'll never be able to look at it with a straight face again wink1.gif

I'll add it to the list of Things I Will Fix with When I Win Lotto and Take over the Board. But the first thing to go in the NYCB Nuts would be the ghastly tutus for the Flowers. Way way back in the late 50's / early 60's one of my aunts used to make novelty spare toilet paper roll covers that consisted of a southern belle-ish doll dressed in a vast, very pink, very flounced crocheted dress. You set the unused roll on the toilet tank, stood the doll up in the tube, and covered the roll up with her dress. The first time I saw the NYCB Nutcracker I gasped in horror when the Flowers appeared: they looked just like those damned dolls.

ETA: Flouncy tutus and high chair in one easy shot ...

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Unlike the high chair, which serves the practical purpose of putting them in the center, but not prominently forward, and high enough to be able to see what's going on, those flowers dresses serve no purpose except to cover the body.

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Aww I like the fluffy multi-layered flower dresses. Think they're much less offensive when the flowers are dancing. You get to see the layers fluffing up and down and take on a life of its own. Much like Ginger Rogers' famous "feathers" dress in Top Hat.

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those dresses are iconic NYCB Karinska designs. No way no how no change!

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PNB got to re-design the costumes for "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Paris Opera Ballet got to re-design "Jewels," and even NYCB updated the "Jewels" costumes. There's always hope.

Ginger Rogers' feathers dress did not flop: it lilted and flowed (:drama smilie we don't have:)

I think Sendak did a much nicer job with the flowers costumes in PNB's productions, even if Flora isn't as easy to find as Dewdrop, but it's a different kind of role, anyway.

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I think Sendak did a much nicer job with the flowers costumes in PNB's productions, even if Flora isn't as easy to find as Dewdrop, but it's a different kind of role, anyway.

According to Kent Stowell in an interview excerpted in Remembering Lincoln, when Stowell showed Kirstein Sendak's Nutcracker sketches, his reaction was

"Damn, I wish we had something like this in our theater"

whereupon Stowell asked him to write PNB's board chairman and Kirstein wrote a note that said

I'm filled with violent greed and envy over your production of Nutcracker

Stowell goes on to say that he took Sendak backstage

and Ducky showed him short and long tutus. I wanted him to get a feel for all that. We were at a matinee and Maturice and I were standing there in the intermission and way over across the Promenade was Lincoln. He saw us and came over and you know how he bears down on you, ruff ruff ruff. He came over and I said, "This is Maurice Sendak, this is Lincoln Kirstein." So Lincoln said, "I have always wondered why you draw those little short squat figures, and now I see you I know why!" And Maurice said, "Well, flattery will get you everywhere."

rofl.GIF

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I love the Balanchine version, I haven't seen NYCB perform it live and I'm hoping to in the next few years.

That being said, I'd like to stick up for the ABT version. I think it has a magical and profound through narrative about the wonders of childhood and the sadness about losing the dreams of childhood and growing up. Ratmansky is deeply attuned to the narrative and emotional potential of the music, and every moment reflects the score (although not in the structural way that Balanchine's version does). I agreed that the opening to Act II is boring, but I've yet to see a version of that intro that doesn't send me to sleep. I highly recommend the ABT production.

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According to Kent Stowell in an interview excerpted in Remembering Lincoln, when Stowell showed Kirstein Sendak's Nutcracker sketches, his reaction was

"Damn, I wish we had something like this in our theater"

whereupon Stowell asked him to write PNB's board chairman and Kirstein wrote a note that said

I'm filled with violent greed and envy over your production of Nutcracker

At the beginning, PNB was very careful to negotiate a contract that guaranteed them exclusive use of the designs for a number of years (I can't remember off the top of my head, but I think it might have been around five years) with the assumption that later on, some other company would want to create another production using those sets and costumes. I don't know if they (or Sendak) were ever approached about it, but it was a topic of conversation. They are very engaging -- dense, in the way that Sendak's art often is. This is the 35th anniversary of the production, and I'm still entertained with the details.

Edited by sandik

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For NYCB, the best seats are $229!!! For ABT, they are about half that.

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That's because Balanchine's version is much more popular. To get an optimal look at his group dances, such as the battle scene and the snowflakes, I wouldn't advise getting orchestra seats anyway. An elevated view is preferable.

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I agree. I've seen Balanchine's Nutcracker from the back of the Fourth Ring, and I didn't miss any of the mime and interactions of the children. The party scene itself is nice to see from far up, because you can see the flow of all of the characters. The first two rows of the Fourth Ring are great seats, but they sell out in a snap. For seeing it for the first time, I'd try for the front of the Fourth Ring, and tickets should be under $100.

The used to play around, sometimes with the choreography on New Year's Eve. For example, one of the Harlequin and Columbine dolls would not appear, leaving the partner to kill time and space. One year, Mother Ginger had a "Happy New Year" sign pinned to the back of her dress, etc.

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Thank you kfw!

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It seems like most companies that do a Nut have taken this idea and devote one of their performances to a prankish version. PNB's "Nutty Nutcracker" is December 24 this year.

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