This is a well-recorded and performed production of the Nutcracker. However, a word of warning needs to be put for those expecting a 'traditional' production. This is a new staging and interpretation dating from 2001, with a completely different conceptual emphasis for many of the characters and their roles. The costuming and staging is bright and effective and works well in this production. The music is played in a refreshingly fleet manner and this accompanies effective steps in a modern way that I find a little ungainly at times but understandable in the circumstances - Clara is an unloved child at a transitional age in this production for example. Unsuspecting loved children expecting a kind artistic experience might find this rather unsettling although there are many unloved children in real life of course.
However there are fine alternatives. There is one for those who would prefer the 'traditional' Peter Wright version familiar to the Royal Ballet followers and which has been filling Covent Garden for years. For those who are familiar with this production there is nothing unexpected about this version and all is danced with the utmost skill within a lavish stage setting. The sound is excellent as is the camera work. This will be the perfect version for huge numbers of people and as such comes with the highest recommendation. It would be a Nutcracker of choice for many people.
There are others available which may also appeal. My personal favourite is the Bolshoi Ballet production with choreography by Grigorovich who has a wonderful sense of the epic and knows how to make the most of the large spaces provided by his theatre at the Bolshoi. Anyone who knows the Spartacus ballet for example will be aware of this. There are many breathtakingly beautiful sequences throughout his production - the corps de ballet in the Waltz of the Snowflakes being but one example. The character dances in Act two are refreshingly imaginative while remaining essentially traditional. The Pas de Deux of the Prince and Marie towards the end of Act 3 rises to climatic lifts that do not disappoint emotionally. One could go on and on .......!
I also like the San Francisco American setting of the ballet as an alternative version which is largely traditional in flavour and which has a refreshingly different selection of character dances to offer. The Arabian Dance is especially effective in my opinion.
Currently we are spoiled for choice, there being well-recorded versions to suit a wide variety of taste as described above. This is one of the least safe in my opinion because of its relatively dark concept, although very fine in its own way. Safer, more 'traditional' options would be the Royal ballet version along with the excellent Bolshoi version. The San Francisco Ballet is also worth considering.
For my taste I would choose this as a good alternative and rather dark view. However, I find the San Francisco production kinder and would choose either the new Royal Ballet or the Bolshoi version as my favourite single best buy - essentially traditional, well performed, well recorded and crucially, a kinder experience.