On Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, the Boston Ballet celebrated its opening night of the beloved holiday ballet, “The Nutcracker”. Having experienced the true magic that is “The Nutcracker” performed on stage by the Boston Ballet (and various other renditions of this ballet) before, I can attest that this year’s performance at the Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston, Mass. truly was nothing short of magical.
The Opera House felt alive when I arrived. The excited crowds were bustling in to find their seats. The grand foyer was decorated with a tall, golden Christmas tree. Show-goers were even presented with the opportunity to take pictures with the dancing bear from the ballet before the show started. I could feel the excitement of the holiday season in the air as I took my seat, and when the lights dimmed and I heard the opening notes of Tchaikovsky’s incredible score, I could not help but smile to myself. There truly is no better way to start the holiday season than at the ballet with “The Nutcracker”.
For those that are unfamiliar with the plot of his ballet, “The Nutcracker” is loosely based on the fantasy story by E.T.A Hoffman, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” in which a young girl, Clara, befriends a nutcracker who comes to life on Christmas Eve. In the ballet, after battling the Mouse King, Clara joins her new friend on his journey back to The Kingdom of Sweets. She meets the Sugar Plum Fairy, who, in gratitude for saving the Nutcracker Prince’s life, puts on all kinds of festivities in Clara’s honor.
I was surprised to find myself laughing throughout the first act of the ballet. Aidan Buss, who was cast as Fritz had the whole audience chuckling as he danced around Clara, played by Chisako Oga, showing off his Christmas presents and fighting with Clara for her nutcracker soldier. The mice (the minions and helpers of the Mouse King) were also a big hit with the audience as they appeared on stage in the first act one by one after Clara falls asleep. The darkened stage was illuminated with a spotlight as each mouse made its way into the scene, striking a pose as the light hit them. The poses ranged from splits to meditation poses to playing dead. Each pose had the audience howling with laughter.
The first act finished strong with one of my personal favorite dances: “The Waltz of the Snowflakes” in the Land of Snow. With the combination of the music, the costumes, the floating cloud that whisks Clara away into the sky and the snow that falls from the sky and lands on the stage, this final dance takes my breath away every time.
After the intermission, the second act of “The Nutcracker” was just as impressive. Some of my favorite dances come from the second act as Clara is welcomed into the Kingdom of sweets where she is honored by the Sugar Plum Fairy with a showcase of “cultural flair” as the Boston Ballet describes it: The Spanish Chocolate, the Arabian Coffee, the Chinese Tea, the French Marzipan, the Russian Troika and, finally, the waltz of a Dewdrop and her flowers. Each performance brought a unique talent to the stage with the Arabian Coffee dances demonstrating incredible acrobatic skills, the Chinese Tea dancers playfully skilled in their ribbon twirling and the Russian Troika dancers showing off their unbelievably high jumps. I found each demonstration to be an incredible showcase of the talent of each Boston Ballet dancer.
Of course, “The Nutcracker” is not complete without the beautiful pas de deux with the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy. I could not keep my eyes off Viktorina Kapitonova, who danced the role of Sugar Plum, as she dazzled the stage in an impressive finale performance.
To see the hard work of the dancers, the musicians, the choreographer, Mikko Nissinen, the costume and set designer, Robert Perdziola, etc. was incredible. From the applause that each performance garnered, it was apparent that the entire audience appreciated the talent and hard work of the performers as well. The Boston Ballet puts on an incredible performance and this opening performance of “The Nutcracker” is one that I will not forget.