Vienna Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker
It’s years since I’ve been to the ballet, so when we had the opportunity to see Vienna Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker just before Christmas I jumped at the chance. I’d forgotten how much I loved it.
The Nutcracker is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s book ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’. Choreographed by the legendary Marius Petipa, who commissioned Tchaikovsky to write the music, The Nutcracker ballet was first shown in 1892 at Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre, the home of the Kirov Ballet.
It tells the story of Clara, whose mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer gives her a Nutcracker doll at their Christmas party. After the guests leave Clara creeps downstairs to fetch the doll, whereupon Drosselmeyer reappears and magically transforms the Nutcracker doll into a handsome prince.
Suddenly Clara finds herself surrounded by huge mice and their King, who are waging war on toy soldiers and their leader, the Nutcracker Prince. Only Clara’s intervention saves the Nutcracker Prince from the Mouse King and his hordes. By way of thanks, the Nutcracker Prince whisks her off on a magical journey to the Kingdom of Snow, where they meet the Snow Queen, the Snow Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy who accompanies them to the Kingdom of Sweets.
If Clara felt transported to another world, then so did we! The genteel and elegant party scene – full of gaiety and the excitement of the children, the mystery of Drosselmeyer, the drama of the battle, the glittering Kingdom of Snow with the dazzling Snow Queen and Snow Prince, and the beautiful madness of the Kingdom of Sweets… all were breathtaking. We discover in the end, when Clara wakes up clutching her beloved Nutcracker Doll, that it’s all been a dream… but what a fabulous dream!
The relatively intimate setting of East Grinstead’s Chequer Mead Theatre allowed a more engaging experience than a larger theatre might afford. You can’t beat the energy of a live performance, the audience interaction, the sheer – well – live-ness of it. And Vienna Festival Ballet not only have that energy and verve by the bucketful but also, for a young company, have a great deal of poise, excellent story-telling and great characterisation. To add to the authenticity of the story, performing with VFB that evening were children from the Gielgud Academy of Performing Arts, continuing Artistic Director Peter Mallek’s vision of giving others a chance to kindle the fire of classical ballet.
Packed to the brim with familiar tunes and stand-out moments of captivating ballet, this is escapism at its best. I was on the edge of my seat with a silly grin on my face for most of the performance.
Mesmerising! Can’t wait for the next one!
For forthcoming productions, check the advert on the opposite page and for further details visit www.viennafestivalballet.com.