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“The Nutcracker: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” – Tchaikovsky

While it can be argued that the Nutcracker is not technically a Christmas song, it certainly has become associated with the time of year. And besides, we just like the music.

The Nutcracker (Russian: Щелкунчик, Балет-феерия / Shchelkunchik, Balet-feyeriya; French: Casse-Noisette, ballet-féerie) is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (op. 71). The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, by way of Alexander Dumas’ adapted story ‘The Nutcracker’. It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on Sunday, December 18, 1892, on a double-bill with Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta.

Although the original production was not a success, the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was. However, the complete Nutcracker has enjoyed enormous popularity since the late 1960s, and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in North America. Major American ballet companies generate around 40 percent of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker.

Tchaikovsky’s score has become one of his most famous compositions, in particular the pieces featured in the suite. Among other things, the score is noted for its use of the celesta, an instrument that the composer had already employed in his much lesser known symphonic ballad The Voyevoda.




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