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 – Christopher Saunders
Clara – Meaghan Grace Hinkis
Hans-Peter / The Nutcracker – Ricardo Cervera

Act One

Scene 1
Drosselmeyer’s Assistant – Valentino Zuccetti

Scene 2
Maiden Aunts – Caroline Jennings, Susan Nye
Housekeeper – Barbara Rhodes

Scene 3
Dr Stahlbaum – Christopher Saunders
Mrs Stahlbaum – Elizabeth McGorian
Fritz – James Large
Clara’s Partner – Tristan Dyer
Grandmother – Deirdre Chapman
Grandfather – Philip Mosley
Dancing Mistress – Elizabeth McGorianbr>Captain – Thomas Whitehead
Harlequin – James Wilkie
Columbine – Sabina Westcombe
Soldier – Paul Kay
Vivandière – Romany Padjak
St Nicholas – Reece Clark

Scene 4
Mouse King – Tomas Mock

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

Act Two

Scene 2
The Sugar Plum Fairy – Lauren Cuthbertson
The Prince – Cory Stearns

Spanish Dance: Kristen Mcnally, Bennet Gartside, Jacqueline Clark, Erico Montes, Demelza Parish, Fernando Montaño
Arabian Dance: Itziar Mendizabal, Ryoichi Hirano, Kenta Kura, Dawid Trzensimiech
Chinese Dance: Kevin Emerton, Eric Underwood, Michael Stojko, Donald Thom
Russian Dance: Tristan Dyer, Luca Acri
Dance of the Mirlitons: Elsa Goddard, Elizabeth Harrod, Gemma Pitchley-Gale, Sabina Westcombe

Waltz of the Flowers
Rose Fairy – Beatriz Stix-Brunell
Her Escorts – Alexander Campbell, Nicol Edmonds, Tomas Mock, Valention Zucchetti
Leading Flowers – Yuhui Choe, Hikaru Kobayashi, Romany Padjak, Akane Takada, Artists of The Royal Ballet

Grand pas de deux
Lauren Cuthbertson, Cory Stearns

Entire Cast

Aunts, Uncles, Parents, Maids, Manservents, 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

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Martin West

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

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 6 December, 2013
Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

The Nutcracker, The Royal Ballet. Photograph: Johan PerssonThe fairies, the mice, the angels and the snowflakes have settled-in at Covent Garden as The Nutcracker is dusted off once again to pack the House to the rafters. Apart from the cavil that The Royal Ballet really should think about scheduling something else at Christmas, this revival can be wholeheartedly welcomed – Sir Peter Wright’s peerless production, set in Biedermeier Nuremburg, still looks tremendous, the stage transformations enough to make the child in us all gasp with delight and the company finally looking back on form after a very uncertain first two months of the season.

Much praise to Martin West who has managed to rouse the Covent Garden orchestra to give a fine rendition of Tchaikovsky’s toothsome score and who takes the music at quite a lick – making all the difference for the good in keeping the action going. The company looks happy, Wright encouraging detailed and colourful vignettes of characterisation in the Act One at the Stahlbaums’ house and the Classical dancing assuming a greater coherence and stylishness than has been seen here for some time. Among the many details of the first act, I highlight Valentino Zucchetti who takes the cypher role of Drossellmeyer’s assistant and fills it to the brim with personality, Sabina Westcombe’s perky soubrette of a Columbine doll, impressively staccato of movement, and Paul Kay’s expertly delivered Soldier doll. These roles can pass for nothing and it would be tempting for a dancer not to bother investing much into them – these three dancers are exemplars of being able to make something out of very little. Also a winner was James Large, the diminutive Fritz, Clara’s brother, the epitome of little boy naughtiness – it always amazes me how a small child can fill the Covent Garden auditorium with character and hold the stage. Well done James!

Gary Avis as Drosselmeyer (The Nutcracker, The Royal Ballet). Photograph: Johan PerssonThere was much to enjoy in the Act II divertissements from a well-matched quartet of Mirlitons (someone at The Royal Ballet is, thankfully, telling them to ‘bend’) to a cracking Arabian Dance with Itziar Mendizabal secure of technique and orientally sultry in equal parts. I still find Wright’s fairly recent inclusion of a Rose Fairy in the Waltz of the Flowers an unwelcome addition, particularly when he gives her some frankly awkward and tricky moves; Beatriz Stix-Brunell did not make much sense of the part but overcomes the fact that she lacks classical purity with bags of personality and a smile that alone could light up the auditorium.

Meaghan Grace Hinkis and Ricardo Cervera were as stylish a Clara and Nutcracker as one could wish for – she has acquired new softness and portrays the very picture of childish innocence, he dances and partners with such unaffected aplomb as to serve as an true example to others in the role. But, for those who were aware, eyes were especially focussed on the central couple, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince. Lauren Cuthbertson is recently returned from a long illness and her return is wholly to be welcomed; she delivered an intensely ‘English’ Sugar Plum Fairy, fully in the company traditions – understated, warm, and generous. She looks ravishing in the costume and moves with polished assurance, smiling with benign warmth, the technical challenges calmly taken (the absence of double gargouillade jumps in her solo). Her partner, providing a fine physical match for Cuthbertson’s long limbs, was a guest from American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet Upper School-trained Cory Stearns. He made an excellent impression – every inch the Prince, he partnered solicitously and presented his ballerina with courtesy. His solo was un-showy but revealed an unforced technique, precise landings and a deep, pleasing plié. He might lack the final inches of elevation which modern eyes now demand of their male lead, but his presence was wholly to be welcomed – he brought an almost old-fashioned gentlemanly grace to his dancing, the like of which we have not seen at Covent Garden for some time. It would be good to see him dance more in London, given the thinness of the present roster of male principals at Covent Garden.

  • Further performances at 7:30 p.m. on 9, 10, 12, 14 (7 p.m.), 20 (2:30 & 7 p.m.), 23 (12:30 p.m.), 24 (12:30 p.m.), 27 (2 & 7 p.m.), 31 (12 & 5 p.m.) December, and 2 (2 & 7 p.m.), 4 (12:30 p.m.), 8, 10, 11 (7 p.m.), 13, 15 & 16 January
  • Royal Opera House

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