The Royal Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

Tuesday 3 January 2012 at 2pm,

Main Stage, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

If one is going to see the ballet, one must do it properly – the Royal Ballet Company at the Royal Opera House. The reds, the golds, the grandeur create an atmosphere of a royal outing.

As a venue, the Royal Opera House never ceases to amaze. The performance takes place on multiple levels, filling the stage with movement. The ‘magic’ screen creates the impression of multiple stages – one minute, there are servants bustling outside an opaque backdrop of a grand house, and the next it fades to reveal the dancing guests inside.

The performance oozes tradition. At any other time of year, an audience demands new ideas and fresh stories, but at Christmas, family values become the core of society – depicted overwhelmingly so in the Nutcracker. It is a dance of girls and their dolls, and boys and their toys, seeing Clara’s jealous brother, Fritz (Sean Flanagan), snap her precious Nutcracker in an elegant rage of leaps and turns across the stage.

That Christmas magic that both children and adults seek is sprinkled throughout the show. Herr Drosselmeyer (William Tuckett) is seen to make a handkerchief into a wand and a series of them shoot united out of a satchel. There is no time to ponder on how the sorcery is created, for the story has danced on to the Nutcracker, who is dressed formally in that red that cries royalty, tradition and Christmas.

Emma Maguire and Alex Campbell, who play Clara and the Nutcracker, couru effortlessly and romantically together, but it is the Sugar Plumb Fairy (Roberta Marquez) and the Prince (Steven McRae) who should be envied. With headdresses of diamonds, the pair melt into each other with every move, creating perfect control and harmony, something that Maguire and Campbell lack. There are no sugary delicacies to be seen in the Kingdom of Sweets, but the sickly sweet pink of the Sugar Plumb Fairy’s tutu more than makes up for it.

Tchaikovsky’s score is performed to perfection by the BBC Concert Orchestra, and accompanied by London Oratory Junior Choir. The famous melodies played in Act II set a warm, familiar feeling in the pit of the stomach. Peter Wright’s adaptation of Lev Ivanov’s choreography is also to be commended for not producing a dull moment.

In spite of three cast changes due to illnesses, the Nutcracker performed by the Royal Ballet remains the epitome of Christmas. A definite must see.

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