Not bad, but somewhat of a disappointment at the same time
The Nutcracker is one of my favourite ballets and one of my first(first was Swan Lake when I was 6), Tchaikovsky's music is one of those scores that is so amazing throughout that it is hard to pick a singular highlight and the story is enchanting.
I don't think that this production of The Nutcracker is bad, far from it. It is certainly better than the self-indulgent Maurice Bejart and incoherent earlier Mariinsky versions, which are bad productions, but at the same time it is not my first choice(difficult to decide between the 1989, 1985, 2001 and 2009 productions, all magical). It is a traditional production and is very colourful in the costumes and sets without being over-saturated. The wonderful music is faultlessly performed by the orchestra, beautifully balanced in sound and textures and with great authenticity, and apart from some too-slow(the end of Act 1 is too much of a dirge for my tastes) tempos Valery Gergiev's conducting is nuanced and authoritative.
Of the cast the standouts are Alexandra Korshunova as a very soulful, sweet and youthful young Masha and Vladimir Shklyarov as a handsome and powerfully yet elegantly danced(his jumps are an absolute wonder to behold) Prince. The production isn't without its high points choreographically either, the children's dances are evidently well-choreographed, danced with a lot of spirit and surprisingly complex, the acrobatics are fun to watch, the Mouse King's entrance is brilliantly suspenseful and the Spanish and Chinese dances are very exuberant, considering the music they ought to be. The Corps De Ballet are impeccable, as well dancing with technical ease they don't forget to perform or communicate.
However, while it is technically wonderful with lots of graceful lines and such the choreography generally just didn't always excite me. The Act 1 party is visually colourful but too stately to have any kind of joy. The battle of the soldiers and mice is nowhere near nail-biting enough and comes across as too slap-sticky(the mice just flailing about all over the stage when they first appear was rather goofy). And even the Act 2 divertissements are disappointing, only the Spanish and Chinese dances have any kind of impact, the Russian dance(which is the audience favourite generally) lacks any kind of luster and the Arabian dance(my personal favourite) lacks sensuality. Alina Somova dances the steps beautifully and has wonderful lines, arm movements and footwork, but aside from the lack of vulnerable youthfulness that Alexandra Korshunova as younger Masha embodies brilliantly the dancing can come across as too careful which makes her forget to perform dramatically. So for all the lovely dancing, I did find Somova's interpretation of older Masha cold.
Even the Nutcracker himself was a disappointment, one review likened him to a love child of Rasputin, and as scary as it sounds that is actually quite an apt description. The worst asset though is the videography which is just awful, some of the worst I've ever seen actually. Consisting of constant close-ups, cutting dancers off at the knees, focusing on one or two dancers in ensembles and betraying that the boys are girls in wigs, and diluting the impact of Dance of the Snowflakes and Waltz of the Flowers(two of the best parts of the entire score) in my mind is not good video directing.
All in all, definitely worth a watch but disappointing. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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