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History of The Nutcracker Ballet

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History of The Nutcracker Ballet

Nutcracker

Photo © Tracy Wicklund
Over 100 years old, The Nutcracker Ballet was first presented at the Mayinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 17, 1892. Peter Tchaikovsky, the famous Russian composer, was commissioned by mastermind choreographer Marius Petipa to compose the ballet, score based on Alexandre Dumas’s adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King." Tchaikovsky and Petipa had previously worked together on another classical ballet, Sleeping Beauty.

The first production of The Nutcracker was a failure. Neither the critics nor the audience liked it. Even though Czar Alexander III was delighted with the ballet, The Nutcracker was not an instant success. However, the ballet gained popularity with future productions, especially in the United States.

The first performance of The Nutcracker in the United States was by the San Francisco Opera Ballet, in 1944. The production was directed by William Christensen. However, by changing a few characters, choreographer George Balanchine brought new life to The Nutcracker. His 1954 production for the New York City Ballet popularized the ballet, establishing it as a holiday tradition. Many of the versions of The Nutcracker performed today are based on the version created by George Balanchine.

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