The Royal Ballet – The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker, Op.71 – Ballet in two acts to choreography by Peter Wright after Lev Ivanov, based on an original scenario by Marius Petipa after E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nussknacker und Mausekönig

Herr Drosselmeyer – Gary Avis
Clara – Iohna Loots
Hans-Peter / The Nutcracker – Ricardo Cervera

Act I

Scene 1
Drosselmeyer’s Assistant – Jonathan Howells

Scene 2
Maiden Aunts – Caroline Jennings, Susan Nye
Housekeeper – Romayne Grigorova

Scene 3
Dr Stahlbaum – Christopher Saunders
Mrs Stahlbaum – Elizabeth McGorian
Fritz – Thomas Bedford
Clara’s Partner – Paul Kay
Grandmother – Vanessa Fenton
Grandfather – Alastair Marriott
Dancing Mistress – Genesia Rosato
Captain – David Pickering
Harlequin – Brian Maloney
Columbine – Bethany Keating
Soldier – Kenta Kura
Vivandière – Helen Crawford
St Nicholas – Kevin Emerton

Scene 4
Mouse King – David Pickering

Scene 5
Snowflakes – Artists of the Royal Ballet
Singers – London Oratory Junior Choir

Act II

Scene 1
The Sugar Plum Fairy – Miyako Yoshida
The Prince – Steven McRae

Spanish Dance: Kirsten McNally, Jonathan Howells, Vanessa Fenton, Brian Maloney, Cindy Jourdain, Thomas Whitehead
Arabian Dance: Laura McCulloch, Ryoichi Hirano, Fernando Montaño, Johannes Stepanek
Chinese Dance: Liam Scarlett, Jonathan Watkins, James Wilkie, Andrej Uspenski
Russian Dance: Paul Kay, Michael Stojko
Dance of the Mirlitons: Elizabeth Harrod, Bethany Keating, Emma Maguire, Akane Takada

Waltz of the Flowers
Rose Fairy – Helen Crawford
Her Escorts – Kenta Kura, Ernst Meisner, Xander Parish, Yohei Sasaki
Leading Flowers – Yuhui Choe, Olivia Cowley, Sian Murphy, Francesca Filpi
Artists of the Royal Ballet

Grand pas de deux
Miyako Yoshida, Steven McCrae

Entire Cast

Other Characters:
Aunts, Uncles, Parents, Maids, Manservants, Revellers – Artists of the Royal Ballet
Children, Toy Soldiers, Mice, Gingerbreads, Rabbit Drummer, Pages, Sentry – Students of the Royal Ballet School, White Lodge
Angels – Students of the Royal Ballet Upper School

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Koen Kessels

Peter Wright – Production & scenario
Julia Trevelyan Oman – Designs
Mark Henderson – Lighting design
Roland John Wiley – Production consultant
Christopher Carr – Staging

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 26 November, 2009
Venue: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Miyako Yoshida as the Sugar Plum Fairy Federico Bonelli as the Prince. Photograph: Johan Persson“As constant as the Northern Star”: The Nutcracker returns to Covent Garden for its perennial outing by The Royal Ballet (eighteen performances in all), heralding the start of the Christmas season. This over-scheduling might bore some, but the production is as delightful an occasion as one could hope, a perfectly executed confection, which showcased what Classical ballet can be. This was a joyous performance that delighted and reaffirmed one’s belief in the gaiety that the theatre can bring.

The magic was conjured by all three ingredients that make a trip to The Nutcracker joyous: it looked pristine, the dancing was spot-on, and the music wove Tchaikovsky’s delicious score wonderfully. Julia Trevelyan Oman’s designs are stunning, and the sight of the rising Christmas tree – as Clara joins the toys before the battle – is a theatrical marvel. Drosselmeyer’s distribution of presents had most of the young children around me agog, as did the enchanting Kingdom of Sweets, and the many divertissements enthralled. Throughout, the care and attention to detail – aside from the dancing – were exemplary, and long may this particular nut continue to be cracked.

Mouse. Photograph: Bill CooperKoen Kessels is no stranger to The Nutcracker score, and his affinity with it shone through, as did his sympathy with his dancers. Too often Tchaikovsky’s music is treated as a march throughout. Here the music breathed, was occasionally expansive, and really sang. The orchestra, too, was on top form, and played with sparkle.

In the title role Ricardo Cervera delivered a terrific mime in the Kingdom of Sweets. His communication of his character’s feelings – mechanical to being in love with Clara – made him adorable, and his competence was clear for all to see; he needs to be given the chance to dance the Prince, and soon. As the Prince, though, was the incomparable Steven McRea, who pushed every sinew into action during ‘Grand pas de deux’. He showed what a master he is in this short, but incredibly taxing role.

Yuhui Choe as the Sugar Plum Fairy & Alastair Marriott as Drosselmeyer. Photograph: Bill CooperThe Sugar Plum Fairy was the stalwart Miyako Yoshida (her retirement has just been announced), and no better Sugar Plum is surely available. Hers is a well-phrased, musical and razor-sharp presentation, with thought given to every gesture. The girlish charm of Clara found Iohna Loots on compelling form, whilst Thomas Bedford (Clara’s brother Fritz, who breaks the nutcracker given to her by Drosselmeyer) almost stole the limelight in Part One with his impish charm – what a sweetie!

Overseeing the whole evening is Gary Avis’s authoritative Drosselmeyer, the toymaker. He is first seen mourning his son, Hans-Peter, who has been transformed into a nutcracker shaped as a doll. He then presents presents to the Stahlbaum family at their Christmas Eve party before guiding Clara and Hans-Peter on their magical journey. He is confident and, thankfully, lacks a too-studied approach.

The cast is huge, and were well-drilled. The Snowflakes had matched ensemble, and were tidy, though some heavy footwork suggests more time was needed to ensure grace. The battle between the toy soldiers and the mice brought many smiles. Though, as charming as most of the Divertissements are, the ‘Chinese Dance’ is an embarrassing (racist?) caricature, and ought to have its choreography re-written. It lacks charm and is a blackspot in what is otherwise wholesome entertainment.

  • Further performances on November 27 & 30 and December 2, 5 (matinee), 9, 11, 12 (matinee, evening), 16, 23 (matinee), 28, 29 (matinee, evening), 30 (matinee, evening) & 31 December, and 1 January, with different casts
  • Royal Ballet Nutcracker
  • Box office: 020 7304 4000

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