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Nutcracker Question


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Hello Fellow Ballet Alerters!

 

Mariinsky and Bolshoi tend to perform Nutcracker throughout the year.  Most other companies tend to keep Nutcracker for the holiday season.  Does anyone know why this is?

 

Thank you!

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I believe that the practice of having a Nutcracker season in November/December took hold in the U.S. when companies realized that people who did not ordinarily attend ballet performances would bring their families to see The Nutcracker as a holiday event.  This was reinforced when ballet schools started performing The Nutcracker (with their students) as a way to raise funds.  Companies and schools in countries in which the government provides more support than in the U.S. may not find it so critical to establish a Nutcracker season.

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Even in Hamburg, where John Neumeier created a Nutcracker without references to a Christmas party, in order to rid the ballet of a seasonal attachment, the ballet is now performed exclusively at Christmastime. Many European companies don't perform The Nutcracker every year, but it's one of several glittery, family-friendly ballets they have in rotation for the Christmas holidays.

In Warsaw Pact countries the ballet was also aimed at children and tended to be a Saturday matinee standard. Years ago I remember Ivan Nagy saying he grew to dread the ballet, because if it was Saturday afternoon, it was inevitably The Nutcracker. But in countries where the celebration of Christmas was strongly discouraged or even prohibited, emphasizing a seasonal connection would have been highly undesirable. 

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It's being performed twice as part of a Tchaikovsky festival, along with Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Pique Dame. Normally, it's performed as a big block during the Christmas holidays, just like American companies do.

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The question takes me back:

In the history of Balanchine's great New York City Ballet, which ranks with the Mariinsky and Bolshoi in the minds of some of us, it might be mentioned that his The Nutcracker was sometimes performed in summer in the open-air Performing Arts Center at Saratoga Springs, in upstate New York, where many New Yorkers - and a passing Chicagoan, like me - took breaks from the heat of the city.  Or tried to.  One evening in July 1972 the heat and humidity were so high we would stick to the board seats we sat on, while we watched it snow on stage.  Does everybody know what cognitive disconnect means?

But Tchaikovsky (following the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann) prescribes a children's-Christmas-party scene opening Act I, specifically including a Christmas tree which grows, as the scenario rises from more representational narrative into dream-fantasy, and Balanchine, intuiting how his adopted country would take to this, prepared for it by the holiday season, launched his ballet as a Christmas event, both to the large audience New York offered and the new and maybe larger audience television offered as well: Around 1954, NBC had just developed commercial color television and wanted to show it off.  So in America, if my gloss here has any truth to it, the ballet took root and grew, but Balanchine, true to his roots, would also present it "out of season," as it were.

With Mr. B. and the traditional Russian companies, I really don't think The Nutcracker has a season:  The experience of art is, or ought to be, like a trip to another world, with its own time and place.  That's the value of it; it "takes us away" from the ordinary and may even change us for a time - or permanently.   

Edited by Jack Reed
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54 minutes ago, Jack Reed said:

New York City Ballet, which ranks with the Mariinsky and Bolshoi in the minds of some of us

There's no doubt in my mind that New York City Ballet has the best Nutcracker of all.

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1 hour ago, Jack Reed said:

With Mr. B. and the traditional Russian companies, I really don't think The Nutcracker has a season:  The experience of art is, or ought to be, like a trip to another world, with its own time and place.  That's the value of it; it "takes us away" from the ordinary and may even change us for a time - or permanently.   

Thank you for your reply as it really make sense to me why this baller can be enjoyed all year round.   When done well, the Nutcracker is truly magical.  I remember seeing the Maurice Sendak version for PNB on television many years ago.  That was probably my favorite.

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On 8/23/2020 at 1:44 PM, ECat said:

Thank you all so much for your replies to my question.  I see on the Bolshoi website that they plan to perform it this September.  https://www.bolshoi.ru/en/timetable/  It must be an American tradition to perform it yearly during the holidays.

To everything it's season? Americans like their Christmas-themed events near Christmas time. Unfortunately, the media, commercialism and capitalism do play a large part in how the year is organized. Events have to stick to their time slots. This year’s Indianapolis 500 was the lowest-rated broadcast ever, most likely because it wasn't run at its normal time of the year due to the pandemic closures.
 

On 8/24/2020 at 4:24 PM, Jack Reed said:

With Mr. B. and the traditional Russian companies, I really don't think The Nutcracker has a season:  The experience of art is, or ought to be, like a trip to another world, with its own time and place.  That's the value of it; it "takes us away" from the ordinary and may even change us for a time - or permanently.   

It's certainly true that a true work of art can be viewed/listened to at any time of the year and still be appreciated. For some people though, there's an added special element to witnessing a seasonal event during its 'proper' season. I'm pretty sure my father wouldn't feel right if he hadn't watched the Vienna Philharmonic perform The Blue Danube and the Radetsky March at the New Year concert.  😉

Edited by pherank
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21 hours ago, pherank said:

To everything it's season? Americans like their Christmas-themed events near Christmas time. Unfortunately, the media, commercialism and capitalism do play a large part in how the year is organized. Events have to stick to their time slots. This year’s Indianapolis 500 was the lowest-rated broadcast ever, most likely because it wasn't run at its normal time of the year due to the pandemic closures.

Very interesting about the Indianapolis 500.  It is true that the  year is organized by money.  Halloween items are already in the stores!

 

Also thank you for the link to the SF Ballet survey.

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On 8/27/2020 at 7:01 PM, pherank said:

To everything it's season? Americans like their Christmas-themed events near Christmas time. Unfortunately, the media, commercialism and capitalism do play a large part in how the year is organized. Events have to stick to their time slots. This year’s Indianapolis 500 was the lowest-rated broadcast ever, most likely because it wasn't run at its normal time of the year due to the pandemic closures.
 

It's certainly true that a true work of art can be viewed/listened to at any time of the year and still be appreciated. For some people though, there's an added special element to witnessing a seasonal event during its 'proper' season. I'm pretty sure my father wouldn't feel right if he hadn't watched the Vienna Philharmonic perform The Blue Danube and the Radetsky March at the New Year concert.  😉

 

I went to the Indy 500 in 1989 (have family and family friends in the Midwest). Completely unaware of the schedule changes this year and missed half of it. Maddening (though it had to happen). 

I'm kind of looking forward to the Nutcracker all year. I'll image search and go onto YouTube any time of year. But there is indeed a "warmth" to seeing it in December (falling on or at least straddling my birthday, anyhow).

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