Before you head to see this year’s production of The Nutcracker (Louisville Ballet performances start 12/8), here are some enlightening facts about one of the most popular ballets.
1. Choreographer Marius Petipa micromanaged Tchaikovsky, dictating the tempos and number of bars in each movement of the score.
2. The premiere received mixed reviews. Dancers were called “pudgy” and “insipid” by one critic, and “charming” by another. The score was probably the most successful part of the production.
3. Tchaikovsky took a break from writing the music to visit the United States, where he conducted concerts to open Carnegie Hall.
4. Clocking in at around 85 minutes, the original version is shorter than Tchaikovsky’s other two well-known ballets: Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.
5. An abridged suite of the music, containing about a third of the original numbers, was premiered in 1892 and was a hit.
6. The first full US performance took place on December 24, 1944, by the San Francisco Ballet.
7. E.T.A. Hoffman’s original tale is much darker and intended more for adults.
8. In the original tale by Hoffman, the main character is called Marie, not Clara as in the ballet.
9. Nutcrackers were first used in the 15th century, and were developed in rural Germany.
10. Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn arranged and recorded a jazz version of Tchaikovsky’s score in 1960 for Columbia Records. The “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” is changed to “Sugar Rum Cherry.”