Tchaikovsky’s music is defined by soaring but bittersweet melodies, a reflection of his own personal struggles and victories as a closeted gay man. His ballets focus on hidden identities and quests for freedom and true love, things that would elude him until his untimely death from cholera. The Nutcracker was the last of his three ballets, first performed only a year before his death. It was a commercial failure, although the big hits of act two were well received. But some thirty years after the composer’s death the ballet was revisited and became a smash hit globally. It’s now a permanent part of the western holiday tradition and a magical story for generations of children.
Activity: Watch the show!
There are many, many recordings of The Nutcracker. My two favorites are a stage performance by San Francisco Ballet and a cinematic version directed by Carrol Ballard with sets and costumes designed by Maurice Sendak. Dress up as if you were going to the theater, get some special treats, and enjoy the show from home!
Music in this Episode:
Royal Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of London. (1955). The Nutcracker [Vinyl recording]. London: Artur Rodzinski, Conductor. (1955)