December 2011

It was many years since I had been to the ballet, and longer since I’d seen a production of The Nutcracker. It is one of my favourites partly because it was the first ballet I saw when I was very nearly 8 years old and I have fond associations with the music by Tchaikovsky.

We went to see the production of The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum and I enjoyed our day out overall – partly because I enjoyed wandering round familiar sights in London with my family; partly because of going to the ballet.

The production was quite good but I’m sorry to say that even a non-expert could see that it was not perfect. Perhaps they were coming towards the end of their run and were beginning to tire.

For technical expertise I would probably give 2 or 3 stars, that’s 5 or 6/10. For instance, the part of Clara was played by an understudy. She was good, but not perfect, not excellent. Given that she was not originally going to perform that evening, she did very well. However, she was one of at least two other performers who finished a piece early and had to wait for the orchestra to catch up – or may be the orchestra was behind, who knows?

Meanwhile, the chorus were not entirely in synch – sometimes they were late to take their places. If the effectiveness of a chorus is doing things in the same way at the same time, well, here they didn’t all do so. It was minor stuff, the odd arm placed differently here or placed a fraction of a second behind or before the rest of the chorus. It spoilt the overall effect. If they hadn’t worn identical costumes the differences would not have been so obvious.

As far as I can tell the music was played OK – there were no obvious glitches apart from being out-of-synch with the dancers occasionally and I don’t know whose fault that was.

I did enjoy the music and I found the interpretation of the story interesting (although I’m more of a traditionalist). I don’t know where the idea for the hot air balloon came from. It did sort of work as a motif – introduced obliquely as a toy during act one and last seen floating away in the distance at the end. The Arabian dance with its harem/slavery theme was new – no hint of coffee there. The Russian dance, I’m afraid, got out of step.

These were clearly skilled performers – you’ll never find me doing point work – and the set pieces (e.g. the pas do deux) were generally OK. It’s just that it all felt a little jaded.  They seemed to be ready for a rest.

Overall 3 stars, or 7/10 because, although I noticed the rough edges, I did enjoy myself.

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