Schiaccianoci (Lo) / Nutcracker
If Christmas is an elusive, childhood state of mind, Peter Wright's 1985 Royal Ballet production of The Nutcracker
, recorded at Covent Garden, is just the thing to recapture it. The delicately symmetrical choreography of Wright and Lev Ivanov ensures that the stage is constantly filled with the mesmerising enchantment demanded by Tchaikovsky's perennial favourite. The ballet's success will always lie, in part, in its familiarity and its intrinsic status as Christmas entertainment, but the best productions, like Wright's, give equal weight to the dark forces of Hoffmann's original tale, which must be overcome before good and innocence can prevail.
Here, the sadness of Drosselmeyer is a potent thread in the ballet, resolved in a moving, well-judged moment as the curtain falls. There is real magic in the dancing, from Julie Rose's charming, constantly involved Clara to the irresistible images of the divertissements. But rightly, the laurels go to Lesley Collier as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Anthony Dowell as the Prince for a pas de deux that seems to hover above the stage without making contact. And, like Wright's production, the splendid sets of Julia Trevelyan Oman--combining traditional Victorian Christmas images, a delicate filigree flower garden and pre-Raphaelite angels--steer the right side of sentimentality.
On the DVD: The Nutcracker has no extras on this DVD, although the booklet provides adequate production notes. The 4:3 format also provides adequate picture quality for a mid-1980s television production, although no amount of colour adjustment improves a slightly washed-out look. The sound, Linear PCM Stereo, makes the orchestra sound robust and solid at the occasional expense of subtlety. --Piers Ford