Ballet buffs may – or may not – know that today marks the 120th anniversary of the first-ever performance of The Nutcracker.
The show is as famed for its music as it is for its dance, and the score was written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who had already shot to fame for the music he had written for Swan Lake (1876) and Sleeping Beauty (1889). Shortly before writing The Nutcracker’s music, Tchaikovsky had discovered the celesta, a keyboard-like instrument that he wished to use to denote the Sugar Plum Fairy for its ‘heavenly sweet sound’.
Although the first performance – 18 December 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg – was initially deemed a failure (with one critic calling the main character ‘corpulent’ and an audience member complaining that ‘one can not understand anything.’), the enduring romance and magic of the story has secured its place as one of the world’s favourite ballets.
Below, you can watch the whole of the BBC’s 2001 adaptation, as performed at the Royal Opera House.