Jan 28, 1952 - Dec 31, 2016

The Nutcracker

The National Ballet of Canada

Every year during the Christmas season, thousands of children and their parents visit the theatre to see The Nutcracker. Discover how the story had been interpreted by different artists at the National Ballet of Canada.

The Christmas classic
The Nutcracker premiered at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia on December 18, 1892. The choreography was by Lev Ivanov after Marius Petipa, who, having fallen ill before beginning to choreograph, passed on his choreographic plan to Ivanov. The score was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky who was initially reluctant to write the score, finding the libretto based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s children’s tale, The Nutcracker and the King of the Mice, lacking in fantasy. Today, The Nutcracker’s delightful plot and timeless music have made it a perennial favourite and most companies hold a version in their repertoire, including the National Ballet of Canada.
The Nutcracker choreographed by Celia Franca (1955)
Celia Franca choreographed a four-act version of The Nutcracker, which premiered at the Capitol Theatre in Quebec City on November 19, 1955. Kay Ambrose, who also designed over 25 other productions for the National Ballet, designed the sets and costumes. CBC filmed this production and it aired on December 23, 1958.
Celia Franca's new version (1964)
In 1964, the National Ballet re-envisioned The Nutcracker with new choreography by Celia Franca and new sets and costumes by Jürgen Rose. The production premiered on December 26, 1964 featuring Martine van Hamel and Frank Schaufuss as The Sugar Plum Fairy and Nutcracker Prince. The production cost approximately $100,000 and was at the time the most expensive theatrical production in Canada.

The National Ballet performed Celia Franca’s The Nutcracker production annually from 1964 to 1994. Many young dancers who portrayed Clara in this production went on to perform with the company, however, none has ever become a Principal Dancer to date.

Tour of the Orient (1992)
In 1992 The National Ballet of Canada toured to Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The ballets performed included The Taming of the Shrew, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. The company was joined by students from the Asami Maki Ballet/Tachibana Ballet School and Tomoi Homura Ballet School for performances of The Nutcracker in Japan.
The Nutcracker choreographed by James Kudelka (1995)
On December 21, 1995, the National Ballet premiered a new The Nutcracker with choreography by James Kudelka and sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto. The story is told through the eyes of sister and brother Marie and Misha who are played by students from Canada’s National Ballet School. The first Marie was Susan McElhinney and the first Misha was Warren Benns.
A very special cast
Did you know celebrities have been performing The Nutcracker with The National Ballet of Canada since 1964? The walk-on roles of Stretcher Bearers in Celia Franca’s production and Cannon Dolls in James Kudelka’s version have been played by a host of Canadian personalities. Notable names include Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman, author Pierre Berton, Ron MacLean of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, Champion figure skater Kurt Browning, M.P. Olivia Chow, writer Margaret Atwood, Stephen Page of the Barenaked Ladies, CBC Radio’s Tom Allen and CBC Television personality Rick Mercer.
Breaking a spell
Much like the “Curse of the Clara’s” none of the dancers who played the role of Marie in James Kudelka’s The Nutcracker had gone on to dance the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy – until December 2011. First Soloist Elena Lobsabova who played Marie as a student of Canada’s National Ballet School in 1997 and 1998, made her debut as The Sugar Plum Fairy on December 17. 

It takes a long preparation to make magic happen...

Sharing the magic, year after year.

A look at The National Ballet of Canada's productions of The Nutcracker.
Credits: Story

Photos By: Aleksandar Antonijevic, Ken Bell, Barry Gray, Setareh Sarmadi, Rej Towers, Cylla von Tiedemann and Bruce Zinger.

The Nutcracker
Premiere date: November 19, 1955
Choreography: Celia Franca, after Lev Ivanov
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Set and Costume Design: Kay Ambrose

The Nutcracker
Premiere date: December 26, 1964
Choreography: Celia Franca, after Marius Petipa
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Set and Costume Design: Jürgen Rose
Lighting Design: Wallace Russell (1964), Michael J. Whitfield (1986)

The Nutcracker
Premiere date: December 21, 1995
Choreography: James Kudelka
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Costume and Set Design: Santo Loquasto
Lighting Design: Jennifer Tipton

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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