The Nutcracker Story
The Nutcracker was first presented 123 years ago at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 17, 1892. Peter Tchaikovsky, the famous Russian composer, was commissioned by mastermind choreographer Marius Petipa to compose the ballet, score based on Alexandre Dumas’s adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”
The first performance of The Nutcracker in the United States was by the San Francisco Opera Ballet, in 1944. The production was directed by William Christensen. Twenty years later in 1966, San José Dance Theatre brought the Silicon Valley it’s own version of the Nutcracker. San José Dance Theatre is the second oldest Nutcracker in the Bay Area and has been produced each and every December for 51 consecutive years.
It is Christmas Eve in New England, 1830. The night is cold. Herr Drosselmeyer, the magician, famous clock maker, toy maker, and godfather to Clara Stahlbaum, is seen walking with his Nephew. Herr Drosselmeyer and his Nephew are on their way to a Holiday Party at the Stahlbaum House. Other excited guests, dressed in their holiday best, are also on their way to the party. They meet street vendors and urchins and exchange holiday greetings. A puppeteer and Herr Drosselmeyer enact a fight between a mouse and the Nutcracker that foreshadow the Battle Scene that will occur later that night.
Clara, Stahlbaum and her younger brother, Fritz are seen arguing in the Stahlbaum house, when Herr Drosselmeyer enters unnoticed and seems to magically stop their quarreling. Clara, Fritz, together with their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum, and the maid and butler, welcome all of the guests. A beautiful Christmas tree stands glistening with candles and ornaments. The Stahlbaum’s exchange gifts with their guests as the party goes into full swing. Adults laugh and converse while the children play with their new toys.
In the midst of these festivities, Herr Drosselmeyer and his Nephew arrive and this time, are seen by the guests. Drosselmeyer magically makes a Ballerina Doll, Harlequin Doll, and Columbine Doll come to life. Clara, enchanted by the Ballerina Doll, asks Drosselmeyer for her. She is refused and begins to cry. Her mother consoles Clara, and Drosselmeyer surprises her by giving her the Nutcracker doll. Clara is overjoyed and begins dancing with her new doll. Clara’s mischievous brother, Fritz, grabs the doll and breaks it. Herr Drosselmeyer, using the enchanted scarf he bought from a vendor, repairs the Nutcracker. Clara and her girlfriends dance with their dolls. The adults join hands for the stately Grandmother’s Dance. The festive evening comes to an end and the guests say their good-byes. Clara wants to take her Nutcracker doll to sleep but her mother asks her to leave it by the Christmas tree.
Later that night, in the dark and quiet drawing room, Clara enters with a flickering candle, looking for her Nutcracker. She takes it in her arms and falls asleep on the couch. Huge and small mice scurry around the room frightening Clara, then, under Herr Drosselmeyer’s spell, the mice are sent away. Drosselmeyer comforts Clara, dances with her, and asks her “Would like to see the Nutcracker come to life?” Clara excitedly replies “Yes!” and Drosselmeyer transforms the Nutcracker into a live young man. Drosselmeyer then brings the room to life causing the tree to grow to wondrous proportions. Clara is in awe and knights the Nutcracker Prince before he must battle the mice.
The mice are back! This time, with their leader, the frightening seven headed Mouse King! The Nutcracker Prince summons his troop of toy soldiers to a ferocious battle. At the point of the Nutcracker’s defeat, Clara rushes in and helps him. The Nutcracker defeats the Mouse King and Drosselmeyer arrives to take his sword and introduce them to the Snow King.
The Snow King welcomes Clara and the Nutcracker and calls his magical creatures, the Reindeer of Winter Wonderland Forest. The Reindeer dance and then pull the Snow Queen in the Royal Sled. The Snow Queen asks Clara and the Nutcracker Prince, “Do you want to see snowflakes dance?” They answer “Yes”, and the Snow Queen, Snow King and snowflakes dance. The snow scene ends with the magical Reindeer pulling Clara and the Nutcracker on the Royal Sled.
Clara and the Nutcracker Prince, led by Drosselmeyer, fly through the clouds in the Chestnut Shell Boat and arrive at the gates of Candy Kingdom. Spun Sugar Angels and Cherubs, an assortment of Candies come to life, and the beautiful Sugarplum Fairy and her handsome Cavalier greet them.
The Nutcracker Prince tells the story of how Clara and he defeated the Mouse King. The Sugarplum Fairy commands a celebration in their honor. Pages present Clara gifts that represent presents Clara’s family had received at their Christmas party: The Spanish Chocolate, Marzipan Flute, Arabian Coffee, Chinese Tea, Russian Ribbon Candy, Gingerbread and all. Clara is crowned a princess and the Nutcracker is awarded with a medal for his bravery.
Each gift comes to life and dances for Clara. The Sugarplum and her Cavalier perform a glorious Grand Pas de Deux! As the dance ends, the Sugar Plum Fairy summons the Chestnut Shell Boat to carry Clara home.
Clara’s mother finds her asleep on the sofa. She gently wakes Clara and guides her back to her room, this time allowing Clara to take her Nutcracker doll. Herr Drosselmeyer is seen magically flying out of the Stahlbaum house.