The Nutcracker (Royal Ballet) – Review – Royal Opera House (live stream)
By Sandra Callard, December 2019
It wouldn’t be Christmas without The Nutcracker popping up all seasonal and beautiful around the theatres. This year I popped along to my local cinema to watch it streamed live from the Royal Opera House in London. This sensational ballet, with music by the incomparable Tchaikovsky, washes over you like a dream, and to watch the exquisite dancing by the Royal Ballet is to see the art at its sublime best.
The Nutcracker itself comes into being when Drosselmeyer, a magician, kills off half of the mice population, and the wicked Queen of the Mice turns Drosselmeyer’s little nephew, Hans-Peter, into an ugly little wooden doll in retaliation. Drosselmeyer’s mission is to return Hans-Peter to his family and destroy the mice, and he chooses Clara, Hans-Peter’s little sister, and a beautiful and innocent opposite to the wicked mice, to help him in this onerous task.
“Array of beauty”
Drosselmeyer is danced superbly by Gary Avis. He is in turn threateningly beautiful and gallantly gentle, and takes Clara on an adventure round the world in his endeavours to destroy the mice.
Francesca Hayward is perfect as the young and fragile Clara as she is whisked like a feather through adventures both beautiful and frightening. Tchaikovsky’s wonderful music is a constant and essential chaperone during the journey, as the famous pastiche of individual dances is laid out in a continuous array of beauty. ‘The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’, the Spanish, the Arabian and the Chinese Dances, and the incomparable and startlingly energetic Russian Dance, are a gift for the ears and eyes.
I could go on, and I probably will go on, about the glory of this production. It is as near perfect as any ballet you will ever see, but there is a sharp and very noticeable difference between watching a live show in a theatre and seeing the same thing being streamed on a cinema screen.
“Joy awaits you”
To hear the loud and appreciative applause of the audience in the theatre and the strange silence from the audience in the cinema is somewhat unsettling. At one point my partner and I were so uplifted by one scene that we automatically began to applaud, but felt a wave of disapproval from other patrons; a very surreal sensation indeed.
Whilst watching a production in theatre you see the whole panorama of the scene enacted before you. On film you see the same, but also close-ups of parts of the action, which is sometimes wonderfully intimate, but occasionally intrusive, so that the thread of the action is temporarily lost. It is a different genre, of course, and takes some adjustment on the part of the seasoned theatre goer, and I come down squarely on the side of live theatre, but film does nevertheless have its advantages and is a wonderful way of reaching a wider audience.
This is a sumptuous and beautiful production of a much beloved ballet, which stays in the consciousness long after the venue is behind you. The music lingers in the mind like a recurring theme, and the costumes and colours are a delight to the eyes. If you have never seen The Nutcracker before, then joy awaits you, and if, like myself, you are a seasoned patron, you will wonder anew at the glory of it.