3 THE NUTCRACKER
Cover and photoshoot: Trislane Martins and Marlon Sales photographed by Carol Lancelloti. Beauty: Robertta Chapim. Costumes and crowns: Albertini Costumes. Tutus: Ateliê Vanessa Ballet and personal collection. Set: Jessica Lacerda, Carol Lancelloti and Maria Fernanda Rocha. Production assistants: Jessica Lacerda and Alexandre Prates.
JOURNEY TO CONFITUREMBURG
THE NUTCRACKER: THE MUSIC OF
BY MILENA PONTES
TCHAIKOVSKY’S LAST BALLET BY HELENA OLIVEIRA CORREA
THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS ON TIPTOES BY JULIANA MEL
FADA MADRINHA INTERVIEW WITH CECÍLIA KERCHE
BY CAROL LANCELLOTI
FROM CLARA TO MASHA BY CAROL LANCELLOTI
Journey to Confituremburg BY MILENA PONTES
a big Christmas tree. A show of small ballets in a grand divertissement, the fusion of ingenious personalities, the personal events affecting the ways of its creation, at a first look, simple, at the end of a century marked by the emergence of sociology and psychology, and the appreciation of the -2-
contradictions of human relationships and reflections. This is what we watch, replicate, criticize and modify. We feed and keep it alive! A ballet is never just a tale about a distant reality, however féerie it may be. Coincidentally, like this edition, what a great responsibility a ballet has after Aurora’s pompous and sparkling dream in Sleeping Beauty. I invite the reader to leave the palace, but without stopping dreaming among the new pine trees, hand in hand with Clara and her Nutcracker on their way to the Kingdom of Sweets. Its popularity today is so far removed from the negative response to its first production that we do not suspect the work’s long journey to respectability. Ballet and the customs surrounding it have changed: it has become a Christmas ritual, and we have accepted it in versions with significant adjustments to the story. His conception was flawed, as far as the setting was concerned, as to the way of presentation planned for him, which was commissioned in the manner of the 18th century, a ballet to end an evening of entertainment after a more serious opera. Common choice to what used
Picture by Milena Pontes
Picture by Milena Pontes
to happen in theaters like the Paris Opera, for
and sinuous tones fit perfectly into the fairytale
example. But that connection did not last, after
environment of the Nutcracker. In his ethereal
eleven performances, The Nutcracker parted
notes, Tchaikovsky recognized the voice of his
ways with Iolanta.
Sugar Plum Fairy and immediately requested the acquisition of the instrument for the presentation.
The Nutcracker was the third and last ballet to
His work continued, but without his satisfaction.
be composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and
In letters, he confided to family members that
the second collaboration between the composer,
he found it impossible to incorporate the image
of the Kingdom of Sweets into music. He then
asked Vsevolozhsky to postpone the première
was commissioned to compose a new opera
to the next season describing a crisis of self-
in one act and this ballet in two acts based on
confidence that visited his creative mind.
the somewhat sombre tale of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann, but
“I haven’t created any very daring musical
adapted from the summary by Alexandre Dumas
tricks yet… The second act can be extremely
- The Nutcracker Tale that set the tone for the
fascinating, but it requires a composing job for
atmosphere that we know.
which I don’t have enough time…” -5-
Despite all the mentions, the subject was not
“I tried to do my best, but I tried in vain (…)
very enthusiastic for the composer who was
These images don’t give me joy or inspiration;
reluctant to participate in the ballet, while the
they terrify me day and night.” - referring to the
opera theme fascinated him. One of the reasons
various illustrations of the scenery and costumes
would have been a serious disagreement with
made by the director.
Vsevolozhsky who had removed his opera The Queen of Spades from the repertoire of the
Imperial Theater. But everything was clarified,
composer happened to have the news, by chance,
and in February 1891, Tchaikovsky started
in a newspaper that his dear sister Alexandra, his
composing for the new ballet, guided by a list of
“guardian angel and fairy Ondine”, had spoken.
detailed instructions made by Petipa. “I am knocked out and unable to compose the In early March, when he left St. Petersburg for
Kingdom of Sweets, a trip the second act of the
a tour, he had already done half the music for
ballet takes.” - wrote to Brother Modest.
the first act and the Waltz of the Snowflakes. In passing through Paris, the happy discovery of a
His sister’s affection and memories are mentioned
new instrument would forever mark his work and
by some authors as an important inspiration
our affective memory; the celesta with its light
for the representation of the Sugar Plum Fairy,
and about his vision of himself as Drosselmayer, the
reference (if indeed they were planned) the battle of
mysterious uncle, godfather and magician of the
the rats against the lead soldiers would have taken on a
children of Silberhaus inspired by his relationship
lifetime of meaning.
with his nephews. With the composition in progress,
In the ballet, the battle and the transformation of a
new problems arose in relation to the libretto; the
nutcracker into a young man just happens, while in the
collaborators considered that the story was not entirely
story that preceded them, both were motivated by a
adequate for a show at the level of what they had
longstanding grudge that the Mouse King (and his
accomplished until then. The result would be a simple
mother before him) maintained against Drosselmeyer
children’s tale, without any meaning or morals.
and his nephew, who was turned into a doll as a revenge. Just as we don’t know the moral, the result of
It was common for children from the Imperial School
Clara’s visit to Confiturembourg. Does she always come
to participate in productions that included children’s
back? Does she marry? Do her parents care about her?
dances, but this time Petipa went beyond tradition with
Première gaps that probably made room for so many
the prominent roles of Clara, her brother Fritz and the
Nutcracker. Stanislava Belinskaya, first Clara was only 12 years old.
Motivated by the previous success of Sleeping Beauty, interpretations like Yury Slonimsky’s were inevitable;
According to critic Sergei Khudekov, another support
for the decision would be because “children’s dances
belonging to the same world as the Fairy Carabosse,
were appreciated in the highest circles”. However, the
and the mice of the fairy entourage become a powerful
children’s lack of advanced technique limited Petipa’s
force that go against the heroes of The Nutcracker”.
characteristic choreographic evolutions. Even with all
This statement, discounting certain musical intonations,
the emphasis in the children on the first act, it brings us
highlights what the two characters have in common in
a little insight into the evolution of adult social dances
the ballet, being another point that goes against the
writing and the meaning of Hoffmann’s story.
About past generations, Fedor Lepukhov read in
Unfortunately, the beginning of rehearsals was marked
the work a progression from misery to happiness,
by a tragedy in the family of the choreographer.
believing that Petipa’s notes show traces of an intention
Evgenia, daughter of Marius Petipa, died of cancer at
that invokes the French Revolution: “A ballet about
age 15. Afterwards, he retired from his post, shaken and
childhood may well have awakened memories of stories
having fallen ill due to a serious skin problem, these
told by their parents.” A remnant of this assumption
events kept him away for the rest of the season. Some
appears in the first act shortly after the parents’ entry,
commentators suggested that Petipa’s illness was an
with adults dressed in incroyables and merveilleuses
excuse to move away from a “lost cause.”
dancing Tchaikovsky’s version of a well-known French
The tragic event would have its mention in the work in
song (possibly imported from New England) called “Bon
the second act; the original version danced by eight
Voyage Monsieur Dumollet”. Originally Petipa reportedly
soloists and twenty-four couples from the corps de ballet
listed a dance with “La Carmagnole” the popular song
of Waltz of the Flowers or “Golden Waltz” as it came to
of the French Revolution, but removed it. With such a
be called, it had no success, although it had an opulent
production with everyone in gold including a huge
spiral, turning, expanding and contracting creating
flower vase. The flowers represented in the waltz
multiple shapes would become the most talked
have been altered in numerous modern productions,
about and admired vision in its première. Today, the
but in the production of the Ballet Imperial they
corps de ballet of the snowflakes is seen as a clear
were marigolds - small orange flowers from the
indication of the remarkable achievement of Ivanov
sunflower family, and for a very personal reason.
at Swan Lake.
When Evgenia Petipa died, these flowers suddenly grew in her father’s garden, so the composition
“The plush pompoms in the white dresses, the hats
became a tribute to her beloved daughter.
in the shape of star rays and the accessories in the shape of curls, and wands dangling in the hands
In some productions, the soloists of Waltz of the
of the dancers, represented very successfully and
Flowers are omitted and the number is just a dance
picturesquely the movements of snowflakes, dancers
for the corps de ballet and, in other versions, with
produced a beautiful impression of the artistic
one leading soloist. In Balanchine’s production,
allegory of a snowdrift.” - Skalkovsky, ballet critic.
the lead soloist is called Dewdrop, and in Sir Peter Wright’s version is a Rose Fairy, a role he added to
ballet when he enacted his 1990 production.
swirled, spread out as if they had been blown by
the wind, and came back together. The scene was Lev Ivanov, until then assistant to Marius Petipa,
was taken by Petipa’s retirement to the doors of Confiturembourg, the land of sweets where the
The scene in all documents is mentioned as the
second act takes place. Temporarily named ballet
highlight and the part praised among so many bad
critiques in the première. Something similar to this
Nutcracker, Ivanov composed only one act; the
was presented in the Camargo and The Snow
second half of ballet. Petipa attributed the mise
Daughter ballets, but this new ballet winter has
en scène and the choreography to Ivanov, but the
surpassed in beauty its precedents. Anna Pavlova
libretto to himself, evidenced by his instructions to
was responsible for one of the first productions
Tchaikovsky. The rehearsals were also supervised by
in the West when, in 1911, she presented a new
ballet in London called Snowflakes based on the snowy forest scene choreographed by Ivan Clustine.
A flaw pointed out in the libretto as the most
Several excerpts from the full score were used, and
problematic was the lack of attention to the fusion
this seems to have been the first production with
of the two acts combined in a coherent passage
the music of the journey through the pine forest as
between the worlds of everyday life and fantasy.
a pas de deux, for a King and a Snow Queen.
And that is certainly what Ivanov did; the symphonic sequence, a portal of pattern and dynamics built
The Nutcracker is also not the only ballet to present
together in the shape of a blizzard - The Waltz of the
a sequence of national dances during a party, and
Snowflakes with thirty dancers in white tutus and
this fact deserves attention, as it reminds us of a
headdresses (yes, headdresses and not crowns) in a
custom from the 1830s of public dances in Europe.
Ordinary people, amateur dancers took dance lessons
flirtatious doll Columbine. And thanks to her, the ballet
to have fun at night at these balls. The opposite also
took on new life on the last date, when she took on the
happened when professional dancers, properly dressed,
role of principal dancer in the famous final pas de deux,
performed national dances and others still with ballet
replacing Dell’Era and enchanting with her grace and
technique for the entertainment of the guests.
nobility of poses and movements executing the variation on pointe composed for celesta and remembered as
These divertissements of public dances played an
important role, as they placed both the classical pas and the character pas equally as appropriate for popular
In 1919, important changes made by Alexander Gorsky
took place for the Bolshoi Imperial Ballet and many of
theatrical dance were closely linked. We understand
the most famous modern traditions began. Gorsky put
that the delicacies represented in The Nutcracker are
adults in the roles of Clara and Nutcracker, introduced a
not an epiphany of its creators, but an interpretation
romantic atmosphere between the two characters and,
that would be a reflection of the first half of the 19th
omitting the characters from the Sugar Plum Fairy and
century with a touch of the exotic romantic fad.
Cavalier, gave the couple their Grand Pas de Deux. The
Fairy would become Clara’s projection of herself. Still on national dances, the fact that they preceded the grand pas de deux establishes one of the great marks of
In Hoffman’s original story and debut in 1892, the ballet
Petipa’s style. If the intention at first was to provide fun
ended with Clara and Nutcracker being crowned in
and entertainment, there was also maximum virtuosity.
Confituremburg (The Land of Sweets) as his new rulers. It was in Gorsky’s production that the adventure became
In The Nutcracker, as well as in other Petipa’s ballets,
a dream; ending with Clara waking up at her home and
national dances took place also since the works of the
the Nutcracker like an ordinary doll. These changes were
Romanticism. But in those bodies that danced and in
maintained by Soviet choreographers, especially Vasily
the minds that disciplined them, there was already a
Vainonen in his long version in 1934, who, like other
restlessness recreating codes, reframing the technique.
producers frustrated with flaws in the libretto structure,
Motivated by the speed, electricity and light of the Belle
tried to find interpretations by minimizing Hoffmann’s
supernatural dimension, turning the narrative into a metaphor about the maturation of the main character.
The adventure ended with Clara and the Nutcracker
Musician Nicolas Slonimsky observed that “On stage,
being welcomed by Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier or
she is seen in a static condition of childhood, but in
Prince Orgeat. The first Fairy was played by Antonietta
Tchaikovsky’s music she breaks this limitation and
Dell’Era, a visitor from the Royal Theater in Berlin.
shows her transition from childhood to youth and
But that, despite a very good technique, did not have
the development of her personality in the process of
outstanding characteristics and prudently did not stay
experiencing the genuine love ”.
until the end of his tour, returning to Berlin. Over time, for many, The Nutcracker became their first A
experience in ballet and, perhaps, any other performing
art. This is an important introduction to this art form
for all ages, but especially for children who have such
that Tchaikovsky wrote for an orchestra and children’s
a strong representation. Present in the programming
choir is the culmination of music that frees heroes from
of many schools and companies establishing a special
their earthly concerns and elevates them to a happy
connection with several dancers who had the opportunity
to interpret different roles within the plot at each stage of life and career.
This “childhood poem”, as the ballet was called by many Russian musicologists, was Tchaikovsky’s confession, a
The recognition of the instincts involved in this
unique lyrical autobiography. In his revived images of
production, establishing such points with the trajectory
the past, he sought a way out of the crisis that had
of its collaborators, is capable of bringing each of us
condemned him to death. The Nutcracker was a sweet
closer to its hidden meaning.
dream, the last refuge of a desperate soul, which today we have the opportunity to reframe.
A journey to the home of Clara’s own feelings. The heroine falls in love with an ugly toy that hides a beautiful fairy tale prince. Her life is mysteriously divided between day and night, reality and dreams. Her dormant feelings are risen by the danger of your loved one. The conflict between good and evil ends with the triumph of love. She learns the meaning of life through competition with death. The Waltz of the Snowflakes
Ballet Music, by Humphrey Searle. https://petipasociety.com/the-nutcracker/ Tchaikovsky: The man revealed, by John Suchet Apollo’s Angels: a History of Ballet, by Jennifer Homans. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, by Joel Meyerowitz Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master, by Nadine Meisner The Victor Book of Ballets and Ballet Music, by Robert Lawrence 101 Stories of The Great Ballets, by George Balanchine e Francis Mason. Tchaikovsky’s Ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, by Roland John Wiley The official Bolshoi Ballet Book of The Nutcracker, by Yuri Grigorovich and Alexander Demidov.
The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov. Choreographer of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, by Roland John Wiley
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“The heroine falls in love with an ugly toy that hides a beautiful fairy tale prince. Her life is mysteriously divided between day and night, reality and dreams. Her dormant feelings are risen by the danger of your loved one. The conflict between good and evil ends with the triumph of love.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Milena Pontes is an amateur dancer, dedicated researcher of the history of Classical Ballet and content creator through her blog Tutu4Love.
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Picture by Carol Lancelloti and Milena Pontes
The Magic of Christmas
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on Tiptoes BY JULIANA MEL
The Nutcracker is certainly the most beloved
piece by companies during the holidays.
orchestral arrangements have hardly changed
Inspired by a short story by the German writer
over time, perhaps due to the fact that it is
E. T. A. Hoffman, Tchaikovsky repeated his
a smaller score compared to Tchaikovsky’s
partnership with choreographer Marius Petipa
previous ballets. Its duration, however, does
after the success of Sleeping Beauty (1890).
not prevent choreographers from surprising
Lev Ivanov took over the task of completing
the audience. George Balanchine’s version,
Petipa’s work, and the première of the ballet at
for example, presents the Grand Pas de
the Mariinsky Theatre in 1892 divided opinions.
Deux only with Entrée, Adage and Coda. The
The choreography received several criticisms,
variation of the Prince was excluded from the
especially due to the fact that the couple
ballet and the variation of the Sugar Plum
of leading dancers, who play the Sugared
Fairy was relocated to the beginning of the
Fairy and the Prince, only danced at the end
second act, before the arrival of Clara and
of the ballet. This fact led one of the first
the Nutcracker to the Kingdom of Sweets.
productions of the 20th century, conceived by Alexander Gorsky in 1919, to transport
The joyful theme of this work also contributes
childhood to adolescence. In this way, it was
possible to assign the roles of Clara and
party, in which Drosselmeyer’s mechanical
Sugar Plum Fairy to a single dancer. The same
reasoning also applies to the male principal
Vainonen’s version there is the Harlequin
doll, a wind-up doll and a Moorish doll , in
Grigorovich’s, Colombine, Harlequin and a
popular in many productions, such as that
couple of imps appear, and in Peter Wright’s
of Vassili Vainonen for the Mariinsky Ballet
for the Royal Ballet, we have Colombine,
and that of Yuri Grigorovich for the Bolshoi.
Harlequin, a soldier and a vivandière (woman
On the other hand, the score was highly
who followed the troops to sell food and
praised, having been considered melodious,
drink to soldiers), among other possibilities.
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Speaking of Peter Wright, it is impossible to remember The Nutcracker without mentioning its version for the Royal Ballet, one of the most beloved by the general public. First staged by the company in the 1980s, the structure of some choreographies in the first productions followed the descriptions contained in the original score. One of these passages is the entrance of the first couple of mechanical dolls (the Harlequin and Colombine), which according to the notations, come out of a vegetable and a pasta. Another interesting moment that has been incorporated is a kind of prologue, which shows an excerpt from Hoffman’s tale omitted in Petipa’s libretto: the fact that the Nutcracker is Drosselmeyer’s nephew who was transformed into the puppet. To break the spell, it was necessary for a young woman to love him despite his appearance. Over the years, this production was renewed, gained new choreography and had part of its costumes redesigned, all without - 14 -
losing the essence that so enchants the audience. Finally, the protagonist’s name also changes from version to version. The most popular is Clara, the original is Marie, and in several Russian productions she became known as Masha. In any case, the magic of this work, which was not Tchaikovsky’s favorite work, makes children and adults thrilled by this story that is a true Christmas dream.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Juliana Mel is a researcher, amateur dancer and dedicated to sharing information about Classical Ballet, preserving its memory.
“The protagonist’s name also changes from version to version. The most popular is Clara, the original is Marie, and in several Russian productions she became known as Masha.”
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Pictures by Milena Pontes e Carol Lancelloti.
NUTCRACKER SUPERSTAR M A R LO N S A L E S P H OTO G R A P H E D BY C A RO L L A N C E L LOT I B E AU T Y : RO B E RT TA C H A P I M COSTUMES: ALBERTINI COSTUMES
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Sets: Jessica Lacerda, Carol Lancelloti and Maria Fernanda Rocha. Production assistants: Jessica Lacerda and Alexandre Prates.
From Clara to Masha BY C A RO L L A N C E L LOT I
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Leticia Stock as Clara, Tristan Dyer as Hans Peter and Artists of The Royal Ballet in The Nutcracker, The Royal Ballet © 2017 ROH. Photographed by Karolina Kuras
What should it be like to live the Nutcracker
Leticia Stock is First Artist of the Royal Ballet
season in big companies around the world? I
in London and also danced The Nutcracker
invited two Brazilian dancers who spend their
Christmas in the Snow Kingdom and Land of
Gaglianone is a corypheus at the Bolshoi
Sweets to try to feel and translate a little of
Theater in Moscow. Both have different and
very rich experiences with the ballet theme
of this edition. It made me want to travel and
Leticia defines the season as tiring, but very
live The Nutcracker around the world! Next, I
gratifying. “It’s a tough season, we’re always
share your enchanted stories.
playing several roles in the same show, but we are always very happy. The company gets
“We danced The Nutcracker at the end of the
into the Christmas spirit, we decorate our
year, and this ballet really carries all the magic
dressing rooms ... And, on December 24,
with it. Here, people dream of watching The
the Snowflakes throw glitter; we always do
Nutcracker on the 31st of December, as they
something different. It is very special!”
celebrate the “arrival” of Santa Claus on the 31st, since the Orthodoxs do not celebrate Christmas on the 24th. And, on the 31st, the tickets are sold at very high prices! A seat in the audience can reach about US$ 1,300! And do you know what is most impressive? It always runs out really fast!” - says Bruna, who says that Moscow changes during Christmas. - The whole city is decorated; some main streets are closed and with special programs for the people. At the Theater, we dance more than 20 shows!”
“Clara tells the story. The story is hers. She grows up and changes. The role has a little bit of everything: pas de deux, solo, a lot of acting, watching others on stage... It’s a role that really teaches us a lot.” LETICIA STOCK
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The two dancers’ first contact with The Nutcracker
They are all very beautiful.” - she comments. Bruna, on
was, of course, when they were young students: “The
the other hand, says that she likes Yuri Grigorovich’s
first contact I had with this ballet was at the Bolshoi
version very much: “it is very classic, all dolls dance
School in Brazil, when Vladimir Vasiliev, one of the
on pointe, Masha is the same dancer in all acts ...”.
most famous principal dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet,
Yes, in Russia, Clara, as she is known in England and
restaged that ballet for the school” says Bruna. Leticia
also in Brazil, is called Masha. In the United States,
even comments on the beauty and the particularity
Marie. Regardless of the name, one thing does not
of growing up with this ballet: “You start like as one
change: she is the heroine of the story. “Clara tells the
of the little children in the first act, then you move
story. The story is hers. She grows up and changes.
on to the corps de ballet… It is a ballet that you
The role has a little bit of everything: pas de deux,
dance from beginning to end and get to, as a dancer,
solo, a lot of acting, watching others on stage ... It’s a
evolve within it. It is very important for the dancers’
role that really teaches us a lot. It is really cool to play
career; a complete ballet! The first time I danced
a role in which at each scene you need to interpret
was at the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, in
as if it were the first time you are seeing that. And
Dalal Achcar’s version. I played one of the mice, in
even when you’ve been with the company for a long
the first act, and one of the candies from the second
time, you’ve already done Clara several times and you
act, and Louise, Clara’s sister in that version. It was
already know what’s going to happen, playing with
a very special moment in my life”. – she completes.
the “everything like it’s the first time” feeling is very
Leticia’s experience is vast and involves everything
special. ” – she finishes. That this Christmas, we can
from Snowflakes, when she was still at the Royal Ballet
watch The Nutcracker as if it were the first time.
School, to the main character, Clara. In Moscow, Bruna also collects memorable roles in this ballet: “Here, I have already danced one of the Snowflakes, the first act doll, which we call “Devil”, the Arabian Doll, the Spanish Doll and the waltz soloist.”
What about the different versions? There are so many around the world, each with its own particularities, although the basis of the story is the same, as Leticia
“The whole city is decorated; some main streets are closed and with special programs for the people. At the Theater, we dance more than 20 shows!” BRUNA GAGLIANONE
observed: “And I think each version has its own value.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Lancelloti has been an adult ballerina for 11 years. Creator, Communicator and passionate about ballet stories, she created Aurora magazine to share them with the world.
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Bruna Gaglianone as Spanish Doll and Arabic Doll at the Bolshoi Theater. Personal archives.
enchanted kingdom M A R LO N S A L E S A N D T R I S L A N E M A RT I N S P H OTO G R A P H E D BY C A RO L L A N C E L LOT I B E AU T Y : RO B E RT TA C H A P I M COSTUMES: ALBERTINI COSTUMES A N D AT E L I Ê VA N E S S A B A L L E T
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Sets: Jessica Lacerda, Carol Lancelloti and Maria Fernanda Rocha. Production assistants: Jessica Lacerda and Alexandre Prates.
The Nutcracker: the music of Tchaikovsky’s last ballet BY HELENA OLIVEIRA CORREA
Tradition in theaters and concert programs around the world and in year-end recitals, the ballet The Nutcracker composed and orchestrated by the Russian composer of the romantic period P.I. Tchaikovsky is emblematic, being a work, such as the “A. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons” or the “L. Van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony”, which is able to cross the centuries and continue to enjoy a unique popularity. The reason for this popularity, when it comes to music, is for a number of reasons. Whether for its unforgettable melodies like “Waltz - 32 -
of Flowers” and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” or for the captivating orchestration and instrumentation created by the composer, it is a fact that, even without being part of a complete production with dancers, costumes and scenery, the music of Tchaikovsky for ballet is capable of being the highlight of any concert these days, wherever the piece is performed. In addition to being presented in its fully staged and choreographed version, which has about 90 minutes, the ballet also had its music compiled in what we call a suite, where entire numbers of the full version as variations and waltzes are interpreted individually, in a compilation. The “The Nutcracker” ballet suite Op. 71a is one of three suites selected and published throughout the life of the acclaimed composer and was organized in 8 numbers containing, among others, the “Russian Dance - Trepak”, the “Chinese Dance” and the “Arabian Dance “, compiled in January and February 1892.
“The Nutcracker is extremely popular in the period of year-end musical and dance performances with the classic and bold beauty of its melody, making this work immortal and making Tchaikovsky the most successful Russian composer. popular of all time.” Piotr
composer who still had his work recognized in
triumphant life, despite his personal conflicts
Russia and achieved international fame, toured
and problems such as the depression that
Europe and the United States, created ties with
afflicted him after his mother’s early death and
influential figures in the Imperial Court, he was
controversies about his personal life, dying of
protected from dukes and developed a close
cholera at 53 and having as close family members
friendship with Alexander III, which guaranteed
who accompanied him to his last breath, his
him an excellent government pension until the
brothers Modest and Nikolay Tchaikovsky and his
end of his life.
beloved nephew Vladimir Davydov. A prolific composer, Tchaikovsky composed some Born on May 7, 1840 in the small town of
of the most illustrious works in Western music
Votkinsky, an industrial city in the Republic of
and his extensive orchestral repertoire stands
Udmurtia, in the Ural Mountains, he is the second
out in this extensive catalog, especially the 4th
son of Ilyia Petrovich Tchaikovsky and Aleksandra
and 5th Symphony and the 1812 Overture; his
Andreyevna Tchaikovsky, having his first contacts
piano concerts and his fantastic Concerto for
with music within the family (his parents had
Violin and Orchestra in D Major, op. 35; his opera
an early musical education) and later, at the
Evgeni Onegin and of course, his three ballets:
age of five, he started piano lessons with his
Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.
first musical mentor, pianist Mariya Palchikova. In 1865, he graduated from the prestigious
At the end of 1890, Tchaikovsky had his first
Conservatory of St. Petersburg at a time when
deliberations on a new ballet and an opera
professional opportunities for Russian musicians
with Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the director of the
were difficult to reach, however, still in 1865, he
Russian Imperial Theaters who commissioned
moved to Moscow where he began his work as
them after the success of his latest recent
a harmony teacher, at the institution soon to be
creations: the ballet Sleeping Beauty and opera
known as Moscow Conservatory. Although he
A Queen of Spades. Early in the following year,
faced many changes at the beginning of his career,
in February 1891, Tchaikovsky already received
Tchaikovsky’s musical life is admirable, being a
the manuscript of the choreography of the first
Foto de Milena Pontes
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act of the new ballet from the hands of the legendary
should play, as well as recommendations for performers,
Russian dancer and choreographer Marius Petipa.
as in the beautiful “Snowflake Waltz” at the end of the
The Nutcracker ballet was born there, based on the
first act, where the composer includes a small 24-voice
Christmas novel by the German author E.T.A. Hoffmann,
choir preferably young women, 12 sopranos and 12
Der Nußknacker und Mausekönig (The Nutcracker and
the Mouse King), adapted by Alexandre Dumas in a short
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story called “The Story of a Nutcracker”. This material
With the completion of the composition on March 23,
was the inspiration for the ballet libretto, simplifying the
the date noted on the original score and the various
tale in a ballet in two acts and three scenes. Tchaikovsky
adjustments made to perfectly fit the music in the
started composing music for ballet in St. Petersburg and
duration and character desired by the choreographer,
briefly stopped working on The Nutcracker because of
the successful première of the ballet in a double
his tour of the United States where he was invited to
session with the presentation of the opera Iolanta,
conduct Carnegie Hall’s inaugural concerts. Tchaikovsky
on December 18, 1892 at Teatro Imperial Mariinksy,
composed some excerpts from the ballet in Ruen, France
conducted by Riccardo Drigo and produced by Lev
and at his home in the Russian village of Frolovskoye, a
Ivanov, choreographer and assistant to Petipa, despite
country stronghold where he also composed the music
occasional criticisms regarding the performance of solo
for the ballet Sleeping Beauty and his Symphony no. 5.
dancers, but with praise for Tchaikovsky’s music.
The instrumentation (quality and quantity of instruments
Since then, famous orchestras and conductors have
selected for the orchestra in a given work) chosen by
produced phonographic records of the work, whether
Tchaikovsky is voluminous, as was typical in the romantic
from the suite or the complete ballet. And, obviously,
period. A great suit of strings, with violins, violas, cellos,
due to its Christmas theme, The Nutcracker is extremely
double basses and two more harps. In the wood suit,
popular in the period of year-end musical and dance
a robust number of instruments, with transverse flutes,
performances with the classic and bold beauty of
piccolos, clarinets and bass clarinet, oboes and English
its melody, making this work immortal and making
horn. A complete brass suit with groups of trumpets,
Tchaikovsky the most successful Russian composer.
trombones, French horns and tuba and a large range of
popular of all time.
instruments for the percussion suit, including some toy instruments such as rattles, drums, cuckoos and other atypical instruments in a symphony orchestra in order to convey the atmosphere intended by the composer for the libretto. A notable instrument in this work is the celesta, an instrument visually and mechanically similar to the piano, with a keyboard and strings, but which produces a unique, sweet and delicate sound of bells for which Tchaikovsky composed the melody of the
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”. Tchaikovsky left very
Helena Oliveira Correa is a Music Teacher, Professional Violinist
clear instructions on how and when certain instruments
and Amateur Ballerina and holds a BA in Music from UFRGS.
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Fairy Godmother BY C A RO L L A N C E L LOT I
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Cecília Kerche with Francisco Timbó at Teatro São Pedro, in Porto Alegre. Pas de Deux Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier.
Inspiration for many dancers, Cecília Kerche
has marked her life and career and, in this
is a reference for Brazilian and world ballet.
interview, she shares her experiences. In times
Dance Ambassador for the Brazilian Dance
of pandemic, the interview was carried out at
Council and official representative of Brazil
distance, virtually - which has not diminished
at the UNESCO Conseil International de La
Cecília’s brightness and welcoming energy,
Danse, the former Principal Dancer of the
which became even deeper in every detail, in
Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro danced
every memory and in every advice, like a true
the ballet The Nutcracker in practically all
Fairy Godmother for new generations.
roles and in several productions. This ballet
Do you remember your first contact with the
some point in their lives
ballet The Nutcracker? He came with this mission of bringing this Yes, it was here at the Theatro Municipal, I
transcendental music. I believe Tchaikovsky,
was already a member of the corps de ballet.
along with Chopin and Beethoven, was one
It was the first ballet I ever danced as a soloist.
the greatest geniuses we had. Of course, there
But its music came much earlier, in my school
are many others. But these are, in my opinion,
days. It is a music that is part of the collective
very complete, complex and have inspired so
unconscious, it is like the music of Swan Lake,
many other great composers!
or like the Waltz of Sleeping Beauty. Many people still consider The Nutcracker
“The Sugar Plum Fairy variation, which seems endless, is so delicate that it leaves the audience unaware of its complexity. The public thinks it is a child’s play for the Principal Dancer.”
to be a ballet for children. There is a certain prejudice and I, who love this ballet, even get a little upset about it. Despite having many complex and very rich choreographies, there are people who still consider only “a ballet for children”. What is your personal relationship with this ballet? What meaning does it have for you and your career?
This ballet was based on a Christmas tale Indeed, Tchaikovsky’s compositions are very
for children by Hoffman, but it is a children’s
popular. He is the “rock star” of classical
tale that speaks of love, hope, joy... These are
ballet and even those who do not know ballet
themes that touch all ages. It is a ballet that
have heard some of Tchaikovsky’s works at
reminds us of our childhood and that is why,
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Cecília Kerche and Marcelo Gomes at TMRJ, 2002. Snow Queen Pas de Deux.
perhaps, it has been labeled as a “ballet for children”.
I arrived at TMRJ at the beginning of the 1982 season
But it is not, it is a story of the struggle of Good against
and, in that year, The Nutcracker wasn’t performed. It
Evil. Then, love wins all. And it is a ballet that has
was in 1983 that I participated in it for the first time.
always enchanted me a lot because of this possibility
I always thought that the magic of being on stage was
of reaching all audiences! I danced shows for schools,
what mattered, playing whatever role it was. As I said,
nursing homes, I danced for a mixed audience, of
some days I was just going to be a party guest and
young people and older people ... So, it is a ballet
that was fine. Those were effervescent years for the
that opens this possibility for dancers to be in contact
company! Great dancers were invited to dance with
with a very diverse audience. When parents take their
the corps de ballet, we had at least 20 performances
children to the theater for the first time to watch a
of The Nutcracker per season. It was a ballet that made
ballet, it is usually The Nutcracker, not Swan Lake. The
the whole company appear on stage. It was fun to see
family’s first contact with dance is with this tale. So,
every time a different audience, and exciting to feel
I believe that it is a ballet in which most dancers feel
what the show brought to them. And yes, I danced the
rewarded for dancing it. And not just in the main role.
Leskova version too, which was a dramatically different
In The Nutcracker, I´ve danced almost every role! In the
conception from the Dalal’s and, in Leskova’s, I played
version that is staged here at the Theatro Municipal,
Clara’s sister. The Sugar Plum Fairy was Clara’s sister.
I already played one of the guests at the Christmas
I also danced Ben Stevenson’s version with the English
party, the hostess... I just haven’t played yet Mother
National Ballet from 1993 to 2000, in which I played
Ginger (laughs). It was magical! Each day put on a
the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy. I spent a lot
different costume, change the makeup. On one day I
of time touring England. In 15 days, we did 16 shows
was an Arabian dancer, on the other the Spanish one…
with crowded houses! There were double shows from
Waltz of the Flowers, Snow Queen and then, Sugar
Monday thru Saturday. Therefore, The Nutcracker has
Plum Fairy. They are characters that made me grow as
been present in my career for many years!
an artist and made this diversity possible, because I needed to interpret each character correctly.
Do you have a favorite version of this work? Not necessarily one that you danced.
It’s great to hear from great dancers like you, that it’s important to go through all the roles. This is very valid
In fact, I have parts that I like more about each other.
for the new generations and shows how important it
I love the Waltz of the Flowers of the Bolshoi, which
is for a dancer to dive deeper into a work, to get
connects with the pas de deux. I also love the version
to know it completely. What you said got to my next
of Mariinsky with those four knights, the Nutcracker
question. The Nutcracker was staged at the Theatro
Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy ... that’s beautiful!
Municipal in Rio de Janeiro in 1981, and you became
There is a version of the American Ballet Theater,
Principal Dancer in 1986. What are your memories of
which was even restaged by Mikhail Baryshnikov, who
that time and of the productions by Dalal Achcar and
had the most luxurious Spanish dance ever! I really like
the part of the mice here at the Theatro Municipal do
Rio de Janeiro, Dalal’s choreography, because the kids
the steps well. So, it is important that you have a great
have a lot of fun! Mrs. Tânia’s (Leskova) Snowflakes
familiarity and intimacy with music. If possible, sleep
listening to the music! And you must be prepared in advance to dance this Grand Pas de Deux. It is not the
That’s true. Each part of each different version has
pas de deux that prepares you.
its special touch. And what about your preparation
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before the season? Did you have any specific, physical
Finally, Cecília, would you like to leave a message
or psychological preparation in order to dance a role
or other general advice for those who dream of a
like that of the Sugar Plum Fairy?
professional career in classical ballet?
It is a long pas de deux. Here at Theatro Municipal, it
I want to say that you, young people, do not limit your
is seven minutes long! And the variation, which seems
careers just by dancing on stage. Always keep in mind
endless, is so delicate that it leaves the audience
that preparation in class and rehearsals, but especially
unaware of its complexity. The public thinks it is a
in class. If you are having auditions, what you are going
child’s play for the Principal Dancer. And I always
to do is a class. If you do not know how to take a class,
rehearsed the pas de deux, the variation and the coda
correctly, with the positions, with the combinations,
together, so I could work on my endurance. They are
there is no use. There is no point in arriving with the
extremely bright, and you need to match your dance
pas de deux from The Nutcracker ready because, first,
with what that beautiful pas de deux music asks for.
you are going to take a class in front of the artistic
It is not for the weak, by any means. Getting the job
director and others. And if the director is captivated
right from the start was very hard.
by you, he may even ask if you have any pas de deux or variation to show to them and then you dance. But
And what advice would you give to a dancer who has just been given the responsibility of dancing this role for the first time?
We were handed the baton to perpetuate this classic work. So, first of all, you need to research. You need to study, to know when the work was composed, with what objective, if it was a partnership between the choreographer and the composer, who were the first ones to dance it... It is also necessary to have a lot of knowledge of music. It is not easy! You need to be aware that the Coda happens after more than two minutes of variation with minimal rest. The attention needs to be focused on the music, in order to distribute
know that class is your calling card.
“We were handed the baton to perpetuate this classic work. So, first of all, you need to research.”
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Cecília Kerche and Denis Vieira at TMRJ, 2012. Pas de Deux Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier.
Dream T R I S L A N E M A RT I N S P H OTO G R A P H E D BY C A RO L L A N C E L LOT I B E AU T Y : RO B E RT TA C H A P I M CROWN: ALBERTINI COSTUMES TUTU: PERSONAL COLLECTION
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