I’ve returned to this Nutcracker ballet on several occasions over the years. It’s become a comfort show for me: I usually find something new in it upon each return. All of the dynamics of this production at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff have changed very little, though the opportunity to see some sensational dance is never far away.
Here, I considered if Marie, taunted by her snotty brother Fritz, dreams of becoming the Mouse King. We go along with her vision – a fantasy realm of winter landscapes, Chinese dancers and regal duets. Maybe the Nutcracker is the embodiment of the lover she waits for in later life: this romantic essence seeps through every pore. Though the story is slight, this ballet is eternally endearing.
The screen does utilise some pleasing backdrops, while not afraid to show some more gaudy visuals. Similar tableaux for each international dance echoes what we saw in their Cinderella, here with a bit more weight and style. The costumes by Christina Fyodorova are elegantly fit for purpose, the Mouse King and his goons effectively creepy in their grey garb. Maestro Anatoliy Chepurnoy, as always, delights in the merrymaking, his orchestra giving in to a lot of the fun heard throughout. Half of the music is very famous in Tchaikovsky’s ballet, thus we expect it to be played well: these Russians do not disappoint.
Natalia Bobrova, as Marie, proves how impressively nimble one must be in this role, and she shines when faced with her Nutcracker, here played both by Georgii Bolsunovskii and Oleksii Skaliun. Each brings energy and physical grace to every moment on stage whether masked or lost in tender moments with Marie. Matvei Nikishaev as the Mouse King was good fun, the scheming, scurrying figure never failing to delight whenever on stage with his soldiers. The role which ties everything together is Drosselmeyer – Marie’s godfather – who brings her to the fantasy world she becomes enveloped in. He has a lot of posing to do and also makes great use of his costume, leading to some nice theatrical effects when the Nutcracker slides onto the stage behind his cape.
The dances from around the world are also an impressive sight, even if they grind the story to a halt. I’ve spoke often about the problematic aspects of this ballet, these moments proving this. I’m just wondering if this company have missed the memo on conversations like this. Saying that, the dancers do not disappoint and got a lot of applause. Even the Dance Of The Snowflakes was a majestic thrill.
It is easy to get lost in The Nutcracker. It’s magic you simply cannot fight. I’d strongly recommend this ballet, for lovers of the craft and those who have never been.
St David’s Hall, Cardiff, Mon 20 Dec
Russian State Ballet continues at St David’s Hall with further performances of The Nutcracker (until Fri 24 Dec), Swan Lake (Mon 27-Thurs 30 Dec) and Romeo & Juliet (Fri 31 Dec + Sun 2 Jan).
words JAMES ELLIS
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