The Nutcracker is a two-act russian ballet, composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky in 1892. The most ‘Christmassy’ of all the classical ballets, The Nutcracker has become a symbol of magical transformation and the eternal renewal of life.
The performance’s original scenario was adapted from Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann's story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”.
World premiere of The Nutcracker took place at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on December, 18, 1892. The choreographers of the production were Marius Petipa and his assistant Lev Ivanov. The original production was unsuccessful, but the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet became very popular.
In 1919 choreographer Alexander Gorsky staged a new version of The Nutcracker with different scenario, roles and other dance order.
The first performance of The Nutcracker outside Russia took place in England in 1934. It was staged by Nicholas Sergeyev after Petipa's original choreography. Annual performances of the ballet have been staged there since 1952.
The first performance of the famous George Balanchine's staging of The Nutcracker took place in New York City Ballet in 1954.
The Nutcracker has gained enormous popularity since the late 1960s and is now performed by hundreds ballet companies all over the world, primarily during the Christmas season.
Today in 2023 in St.Petersburg The Nutcracker ballet is staged in all the major ballet theatres: Mariinsky Theatre, Mikhailovsky Theatre, Hermitage Theatre, Alexandrinsky Theatre, Aurora Ballet Hall and Russian Classical Ballet Palace.
The Mariinsky Theatre is a historic stage, where the The Nutcracker by Marius Petipa, considered to be world classic, was premiered in 1892. The meaning of Mariinsky Theatre for russian ballet history and for The Nutcracker performance can not be underestimated. The first, the best and the greatest - the most suitable characteristics for Mariinsky Theatre and it’s The Nutcracker performance, directed by Maestro Valery Gergiev.
The version of The Nutcracker, staged in Mariinsky Theatre now, was premiered on 18 February 1934 and has not been changed up to date.
If one is lucky enough to buy a couple of tickets to The Nutcracker ballet in Mariinsky Theatre - he can truly be sure, he will have a life-time experience. Unfortunately, The Nutcracker ballet in Mariinsky Theatre is staged only a dozen times a year, and huge ammount of best-view and good-view tickets immediately goes to black market resellers, where they are sold at least two times more expensive.
The Mikhailovsky Theatre is one of Russia's oldest opera and ballet houses. It was founded in 1833 and is situated in a historical building on the Arts Square in St. Petersburg. The current production of The Nutcracker by Nacho Duato, staged in Mikhailovsky Theatre, is quite new - it was premiered on 12 December 2013.
Renowned French stage designer Jérôme Kaplan worked on the choreography. The scenery and costumes are sustained in classical tradition, but full of subtle humour.
The intimate atmosphere of the Hermitage theatre, which used to be palace theatre hundred years ago, is probably the best place to see The Nutcracker in Saint Petersburg.
The balet is performed with the symphonic orchestra here. The classical original choreography is conserved, and colourful decorations and costumes make ballet in the Hermitage theatre even more attractive.
The pecularity of the Hermitage theatre is the small hall without seat categoies or even number, so if you would like to buy the best tickets for The Swan Lake ballet in the Hermitage theatre, you should do that in advance, especially if calls of the big cruise-ships are expected in Saint Petersburg seaport.
The Alexandrinsky Theatre used to be the favourite theatre of the royal family. Its stunning magnificent interiors with gorgeous balcony, opened in Summer season, are truly royal. Different local ballet companies, including Konstantine Tachkin theatre, perform here. The Nutcracker in the Alexandrinsky theatre is always classical one, whichrerally shorter than in other theatres. Unfortunately it is not that easy to buy the ticket for The Nutcracker in the Alexandrinsky theatre, as the companies, which perform here, use to go abroad for ballet-tours, so every ballet performance here is definitely an event.
Although Aurora ballet hall is located in the modern building and is more concert-hall, than theatre, it offerrs unbeatable prices and same quality of ballet, performed by Russian ballet company - one of the best-known in the city. The Nutrcacker in the Aurora Ballet Hall has a touch of modernism, however, the choreography is ancient one, created by Minkus in the XIX century. The ballet-hall, located at the beautiful Neva river embankment, is relatively big, so if you want to buy last-minute ticket for The Nutcracker ballet in St. Petersburg, Aurora ballet hall might be good economic option.
Russian Classical Ballet Palace, located at the famous Arts square, has definitely one of the most luxurious interiors in the city, so if you would like to feel the luxury of the Russian ballet theatre, this would be the best option. The performanсe of The Nutcracker in the Russian Classical Ballet Palace is always special with beautiful costumes and gorgeous romantic scene at the end of the performance.
There are plenty of options of purchasing ticket to The Nutcracker ballet in Saint-Petersburg.
Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky theatre tickets are the most rare, most valuable and the most expensive. If one is lucky enough to buy a couple of tickets to The Nutcracker ballet in Mariinsky or Mikhailovsky theatres - he can truly be sure, he will have a life-time experience. Unfortunately, The Nutcacker ballet in Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky theatres is staged only a dozen times a year, mostly during Christmas season, and huge ammount of best-view and good-view tickets immediately goes to the black market resellers, where they are sold at least two times more expensive. It is completely useless to hope to get The Nutcracker tickets at Mariinsky or Mikhailovsky Theatre on the day of performance. This tickets must be bought in early advance, or being long-time hunted on black-market.
Much more affordable and simple option - is buying ticket to The Nutcracker in “minor” theatres - Hermitage Theatre, Alexandrinsky Theatre, Russian Classical Ballet Palace or Aurora Ballet Hall. They are way cheaper, and The Nutcracker performances are staged there almost daily. So if one has limited budget, or wants to get his first Russian Ballet experience - going to the of the mentioned theatres is really good idea.
To book The Nutcracker tickets - click here
The classical libretto of The Nutcracker, used until today, was created in 1892 by Marius Petipa. Although there are slight variations, depending on the ballet company and theatre, the basic outline is always respected.
Stahlbaum’s home. Christmas is coming soon. Stahlbaum’s family and friends are preparing for the festive night, decorating the Christmas tree. The children are looking forward to the beginning of the holiday. Finally the Christmas tree is ready – it is glittering with the lights. A march is played.
The guests give chidren the gifts. One of the guests is local councilman Drosselmeyer, the godfather of Stahlbaum’s children, Masha and Fritz and a talented toymaker. He has prepared excellent gifts – four beautiful dancing dolls. Everybody admire them, but he then takes them away in order they not to be broken. The children got a bit upset, but Drosselmeyer has another gift for them - Nutcracker, the toy, which can crack nuts. Masha liked the Nutcracker very much – she thinks, the Nutcracker looks very much alike Drosselmeyer. Other children are laughing at her, and Drosselmeyer tells the Nutcracker’s story.
Once upon a time the King, the Queen and the small Princess Perlipat lived. The evil Mouse King lived in the catacombs of the royal castle. Once the small Princess started to tease the Mouse King. He became angry and turned her into ugly. Only beautiful Prince, who was able to crack the magical Nut Crackatuck could disenchant her.
Once the prince cracked the Nut, and the miracle happened – the Princess became beautiful again, but the evil Mouse King cursed prince and turned him into Nutcracker. Inspired by the Nutcracker, Masha ties him her blue stripe, making him the field marshal. Fritz, Masha’s brother, appears in the parlour. He is also interested in the new doll. Masha does not give him the Nutcracker. Children are fighting, breaking the toy. Drosselmeyer repairs the Nutcracker, Masha rocks the toy to sleep.
It is nighttime. The room, where the Christmas-tree stands, is full of the moonlight. Masha wakes up because of the high loud. Suddenly she hears the rustle of the mice. Masha is afraid. She wants to run away, but the clock rings and the room becomes fool of mice. They are trying to ruin the Christmas tree.
Suddenly… The Nutcracker gets alive. He starts fighting with the mice. The room transforms. The Mouse king is the head of the mice. The Nutcracker heads the army of toy soldiers. The Nutcracker starts to fight with the Mouse king. One moment – and the Mouse King will win. Masha is in despair! She throws the candle towards the Mouse King. While he looks back at Masha, the Nutcracker kills him. The mice disappear. There is nobody at the battleground – only the Nutcracker, lying still on the floor.
The miracle happens – Masha becomes adult, the Nutcracker becomes the beautiful prince. He steps towards her. The walls disappear, and they are below the stars. It is snowing and the snowflakes are dancing.
Masha and the Nutcracker arrive in the magic palace Konfiturenburg. The fairy Dragee and the Prince Orchad with the retinue welcome them.
Everybody thanks Masha, who saved the Nutcracker. The fairy Dragee announces the start of the ball. Masha and the Nutcracker are admiring the ball in their honor. The ball finishes. Masha and the Nutcracker leave the magic country.
It is again the parlour with the Christmas tree. Masha wakes up and understands it was a dream. She is a child again, holding the Nutcracker doll in her hands.