Vienna Festival Ballet: The Nutcracker – Review – York Grand Opera House
By Kirsty Reid, December 2019
With fairy-tale transformations, snow flurries, romance and elegant dancing, The Nutcracker has become somewhat of a Christmas staple – even if you’ve never seen it, you’ve almost certainly heard of it.
Set to Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score, the timeless tale centres around Clara (Valentina Leali) and her nutcracker doll, which transforms into a princely soldier on Christmas Eve. A magical adventure ensues as Clara and the nutcracker (Conner Jordan-Collins) battle an army of mice led by the evil Mouse King, before joining the Sugar Plum Fairy on a journey through the shimmering Land of Snow.
There have been countless reworkings since its premiere in St Petersburg in 1892, but the magic hasn’t been lost – as Vienna Festival Ballet prove.
“Touch of humour”
With exquisite costumes and impressive choreography by Kenneth Burke and Emily Hufton, the production sees the dancers go from strength to strength.
The show gets off to a festive, albeit long-winded, start. Opening with family party, we see uncle Drosselmeyer (Dario Sanz Yagüe) perform a few magic tricks while handing out gifts to wide-eyed children.
Georgia Smart brings just the right amount of mischief to her role as Clara’s brother, Fritz, while Estelle Payet (the grandmother) adds a touch of humour as she makes the switch from frail old lady to outrageously energetic dancer – much to the delight of the audience.
Amy O’Connor Bowles radiates grace as the Sugar Plum Fairy, equally as poised is Sugar Plum Cavalier William Brooke. Perfectly in sync during their duets, the pair perform some of the most heart-warming dances of the night.
“Graceful and enchanting”
Our heroine of the hour, Clara (Leali) exudes elegance, beauty and a little humour as she waltzes among the Land of Snow and joins in a dance with the Harlequin Clowns.
Clara and the nutcracker’s battle with the mice army, led by Mouse King David Gutiérrez Robles, is light-hearted and fun. While dances set in the Land of the Snow are graceful and enchanting, with a sprinkle of fake snow coming into play to make the performance even more magical.
Vienna Festival Ballet’s production is proof that the ballet staple is still going strong, more than 100 years on.