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Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker / Martin West/San Francisco Ballet [DVD]

Album Summary

>Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich : Nutcracker, Op. 71
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This visually stunning, all-new production of 'Nutcracker', choreographed by Helgi Tomasson (artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet) is a graceful and timeless adventure on a grand scale. The scenic design by Michael Yeargan, setting the tale at the time of the 1915 San Francisco World Fair, is sensational. From the lovely Waltz of the Flowers to the crystalline beauty of the stunning Snowflake Waltz, each scene is more breathtaking than the last, bringing to life all the well-known and beloved characters with fresh sparkle and compelling originality.

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The SF Ballet's version of The Nutcracker is beautifully choreographed and visually appealing. My young daughters (2 & 4) ask to watch it over and over. They love the "bad guy Mouse King" and are captivated by the scenery and costumes. Set in SF in the early 1900's, it is definitely on the more playful side which keeps the attention of my little ones. The lighting is brilliant, costumes and background absolutely stunning, and the dancing is captivating. As a parent, I appreciate the fact that my girls are learning to appreciate art both in dance and music. Having seen 3 live performances, this DVD by far has held our attention and kept even the smallest ones entranced. Highly recommended for little viewers and enjoyable for adults as well.
Submitted on 12/23/09 by 8.ears2hear 
Clever Ideas, Disappointing Product
Helgi Tomasson, though presenting some additions of clever themes, botches an already over-done and cliché-ridden Nutcracker. This contemporary re-telling of the story is set in San Francisco during the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. The first act is laden with high fashions of the time and beautiful sets. Notable performances in the first act include a jack-in-the-box and a ballerina doll, though notable for the dancers themselves, not the choreography. The Nutcracker doll itself is hilariously frightening, with bizarre blue eyes, and electroshocked red hair. It's also odd that, what with such a big company and huge school, the stage looks somewhat bare with just 6 couples of children and relatively few adults. Clara, the 13-year old lead, danced by Elizabeth Powell is already so much taller than the rest of the company, and has so much make-up on that she looks as if she's 20, at the least. Opposite her, Damian Smith performs an eccentric and original Drosselmeyer. The fight scene is done very well, the costumes and sets look fantastic here, and the mousetrap (instead of the shoe being what kills the Mouse King) is a clever addition. However, once snow begins, the production begins to fall apart. Yuan Yuan Tan, a beautiful dancer, shines as the Snow Queen, though it's difficult to actually even see her role due to the constant camera changes, specifically displaying her lovely face. The choreography for the corps de ballet in the snow scene is disastrous, though it looks slightly more acceptable what with gallons of fake snow drowning it out.

The second act, now set in a surreal idealized world, with minimalist sets based on a famous building from the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, keeps the standard falling. The very beginning, where the Nutcracker Prince describes his perils to the Sugar Plum Fairy is over-done with bravura tricks, which have no place in this part of the ballet. The character dances, for the most part, are choreographically decent. The Arabian is pretty, but dull. The Russians do have a clever theme to them, bursting out of golden eggs. Also, the (traditionally) gingerbread mother (or Jokers/Fools in some Russian versions) is instead a 'carnival' mother, showing off dozens of children and a circus bear; which is something new, unexpected, and very cute. Chinese, Mirlitons, and Spanish are aesthetically pleasing and very well danced. The Waltz of the Flowers is disastrous. The choreography is unexciting and completely anticlimactic, and the costumes tacky. It is also evident that here (and in the Waltz of the Snowflakes), some of the corps de ballet dancers are blatantly overweight, and shouldn't be dancing these classical roles, when present times call for a certain look (which is longer and thinner).Then, the jewel of the second act, the famous grand pas de deux, is massacred. Though the Nutcracker Prince (Davit Karapetyan) and Grand Pas de Deux Ballerina (Maria Kochetkova) are technically very proficient and beautiful, there is nothing in the choreography that suits the story, it might as well have been any array of classical movements. The pas de deux is very anticlimactic as well, and proves a huge disappointment. Finally, Clara wakes up, and the ballet is over.

Though the dancers themselves are technically proficient and beautiful (when not looking too directly at some of the overweight corps de ballet), the choreography is bland and unexciting. The costumes are elegant (for the most part), and the sets (especially in the first act) are very aesthetically pleasing. Helgi Tomasson brings forth some clever and exciting new themes to this San Franciscan retelling of the classic story, though his choreography ruins it. I'd recommend a different Nutcracker to ballet fans, either the Kirov Ballet's version (1994 with Larissa Lezhnina, in Petipa/Vainonen's version), or the Bolshoi Ballet's version (1987 with Yekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev, in Grigorovich's version). However, to devout fans of San Francisco Ballet or those completely in love with the Nutcracker, this would be an edition to own, but mostly just for the new, clever themes presented by Tomasson.
Submitted on 01/11/12 by danrubin06 
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Works Details

>Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich : Nutcracker, Op. 71
  • Conductor: Martin West
  • Ensemble: San Francisco Ballet Orchestra
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Ballet
  • Written: 1891-1892
  • Studio/Live: Live