The story of The Nutcracker is familiar to many lovers of classical music and ballet alike. A girl named Clara receives a nutcracker as a gift and dreams he becomes real. The Nutcracker battles a giant Mouse King, transforms into a prince, and brings her to an enchanted land of sweets, hosted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. Productions of The Nutcracker often feature breathtaking sets, costumes, and choreography. However, the classical score composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is a star player in its own right in this holiday tradition.
The first act of the ballet centers heavily on the story and the theatricality of the choreography. The dancers act out the Christmas Eve party and the battle of the Mouse King and his minions versus the Nutcracker and his toy soldiers. For many first-timers in the audience, the piece most recognizable in the first act is the famous March, sometimes referred to as the Nutcracker March, featuring Clara and her little brother Fritz and their friends.
Following the defeat of the Mouse King, the Nutcracker is transformed into a prince who escorts Clara on a journey through the snowy forest. Act One ends with a flurry of Snowflakes and Clara and her prince depart the Kingdom of Snow for the Land of Sweets. At six-plus minutes, Snowflakes is one of the longest pieces in the entire ballet. The choreography and music complement each other to portray light flurries, a fierce snowstorm, and a cheerful jaunt through the snow by Clara and the prince.
Act Two begins with the Sugar Plum Fairy dancing with her angels. Once she welcomes Clara and the prince, a processional of dancers presents themselves, offering a preview of the entertainment to come. Clara and the prince perform a brief reprisal of the events of the battle then take their seats to enjoy the show. Much of the music of the second has become engrained in the mainstream holiday experience and features prominently in any Christmassy soundtrack or playlist.
The bulk of the second act is composed of a series of short dances (1-2 minutes in length) performed by the inhabitants of the Land of Sweets to entertain Clara and her prince. Many of these pieces of music are well-known and named for a treat or a type of dance. Arguably the most famous segment is the fast-paced and high-spirited Russian- or Trepak- dance. Other well-loved pieces of music from Act Two are Chinese Tea, Arabian Coffee, Spanish Chocolate and the Dance of the Reed Flutes (also known as Marizpan.) Another favorite is the lively Tarentella dance, which is often performed with tambourines.
Later in Act Two, the Waltz of Flowers features Clara dancing with a large cast of dancers in pink tutus to another familiar piece of music. Like Snowflakes, this piece also runs more than 6 minutes and is one of the signature numbers in the show. Not long after the Waltz of Flowers, the Sugar Plum Fairy performs her solo to the whimsical, tinkling sound of the celesta. With a sound like Christmas magic itself, the Sugar Plum music is one of the most famous pieces in the entire production.
For more information on the play, reach out to a company like Long Beach Ballet.