Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Through the Opera Glasses - 41 - Virtual Advent Tour 2009

Welcome to today's special post for my Through the Opera Glasses arts feature.

Today is my offering on the Virtual Blog Tour, hosted by Kailana and Marg.

My stop on the tour takes us to the ballet that started it all for me, as it does for so many other people - The Nutcracker.

This is the double album that my sister and I discovered under the Christmas tree in the early 70's. The full ballet score - no Nutcracker Suite, no sirree. I can't tell you how many hours I sat crosslegged on the rug in front of the stereo, gazing endlessly at this illustration on the album's front cover while I listened to every note of this magical work.

When I grew up and moved from Canada's east coast to Toronto, I somehow managed to get a job as an usher at the theatre where The National Ballet of Canada then performed. I started work in November, during the run of Swan Lake, so I was just in time for my first season of working the Nutcracker.

During my eight years at the theatre, I watched nearly every performance of the Nutcracker. The other ushers would get sick of it after the initial novelty wore off, but not me. Even when I was stationed somewhere outside the theatre, like the front doors to rip tickets or at the bottom of the lobby stairs to cover a reception, I would spend my break inside watching the performance.

These are my dear friends Alan and Jacquie, who can vouch for the depth of my ballet passion.

We're sitting at the pass door, which an usher would guard and allow only theatre or company members to pass through, while showing - you guessed it - an official pass.

For today's Advent post, I want to share a simply heartrending and exquisite piece of music from the Nutcracker, the adagio from the grand pas de deux which comes near the end of the ballet.

This is one of my favorite pieces of music. I'd always wondered what it was doing in the middle of a children's holiday ballet, but Tchaikovsky wrote it only a few years before his death, with only ten more works to follow. During the spring of 1891 as he worked on the music for Act II, where the grand pas de deux takes place, Tchaikovsky lost his sister, with whom he was very close. This gorgeous adagio so filled with adoration and longing makes more sense when viewed in that context.

Before we get to the Nutcracker adagio, I'll let two dancers from the Anaheim Ballet describe the process of creating a seamless dance partnership which shines during the pas de deux.

And here is the piece itself, choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev for the Paris Opera Ballet.

The Prince is danced by Jérémie Bélingard. What a hunkamaniac.

Dancing the role of Clara is Myriam Ould-Braham. Her technique is filled with animation.

The ballet was first performed in St. Petersberg, Russia at the Mariinsky Theatre on December 18, 1892.

"Tchaikovsky's (initial) skeptical attitude towards a lowly genre was ousted by an attentive interest in its unused creative possibilities.

Given Tchaikovsky's unusual thinking which created dancing poetry, his tendency to portray action in musical-scenic works, and a desire to embody real and eternal feelings in the world of art, this could not but find an outlet in the genre of ballet music." - Olga Gerdt, History of Russian Ballet

To visit the other bloggers posting on the Tour today, visit:

Annabel at Gaskella

Heather at Book Obsessed

Sprite at Sprite Writes

Melissa says The Nutcracker is one of my favorite ballets, too; like you, the novelty never wears off!

Sprite says Ooh! I love the video clips! I particularly was struck by the physics of the jumping backwards while moving forwards bit.

Krissi says What a beautiful memory and experience. Merry Christmas.


Melissa said...

The Nutcracker is one of my favorite ballets, too; like you, the novelty never wears off!

sprite said...

Ooh! I love the video clips! Thanks for sharing them! I particularly was struck by the physics of the jumping backwards while moving forwards bit.

Krissi said...

Nothing says Christmas like the nutcracker. What a beautiful memory and experience. Merry Christmas.

Joanna D'Angelo said...

How gorgeous! Thank you for sharing your love of this beautiful ballet with us. And the video clips. I love how the dancers talked about back story - and how important that is for them when performing. Your love of ballet is so evident, so heartwarming and so honest. ;)

Thomma Lyn said...

I love the Nutcracker! Been ages since I've seen it. But it's wonderful.

Merry Christmas!

Lilly Cain said...

I took the girls with me to see the Nutcracker last year. :) It was a simple version with the ballet school, but they loved it. We couldn't go this year, but I think it will be a great event again next year!

Susan said...

Oh, I love the Nutcracker too! I almost took my daughter this year, and I think we will go next year to see it. Thank you for this wonderful post, Julia. This really does say Christmas to us!! Hope you have very happy holidays :-D

CJ said...

I love the Nutcracker but I've never seen it live. How wonderful for you to have enjoyed it so many times!

Merry Christmas.


poefusion said...

thanks for sharing. i think ballet is a beautiful dance and when performed right it can make one come back year after year to see the performance. hope all is well.

Marg said...

I would love to go and see The Nutcracker one Christmas, and a pantomime!

Thanks for your contribution to the Virtual Advent tour.