Ballet lovers should take this opportunity to see this screening of the Royal Ballet’s production of Sir Peter Wright’s version of Tchaikovksy’s /Petipa’s THE NUTCRACKER. This Royal Ballet production was particularly special as it was part of Sir Peter Wright’s 90th birthday celebrations.

This is terrific family fare, a quite traditional and enchanting production with some technically AMAZING dancing, particularly in the second act.

Visually this production is stunning with opulent, lavish sets and costumes and features some wonderful special effects, including a Christmas tree that grows on stage.

In this version, most of Act 2 is  Clara’s dream in which Herr Drosselmeyer is seen trying to control everything.

The waltzes of the Flowers and Snowflakes were delightfully performed, and the corps de ballet were rigorous in their intricate patterns.

Much fun is had in Act 1 with the Christmas party at the Stahlbaum’s and the battle between the Nutcracker and the golden maned Mouse King (Nicol Edmonds) was excitingly staged.

The doll dances,  presented as entertainment by Herr Drosselmeyer, were first performed as a Harlequin and Columbine and then a couple dressed military style in blue and yellow.

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, led by maestro Boris Gruzin, played magnificently.

Gary Avis as Herr Drosselmeyer was charming, mysterious, magical and avuncular. His portrayal only lightly hinted at his character’s darker side.

There were touches of humour such as in his obvious dislike of Clara’s rather noisy and obnoxious brother Fritz, as danced by Caspar Lench.

Mention should also be made of his Harlequin like Jack-In-The -Box assistant, as danced by Luca Acri.

Francesca Hayward, recently promoted to the rank of Principal with the Royal Ballet, was splendid as the fresh, innocent Clara, all dreamy and wide eyed.  Whilst seemingly demure, underneath she is adventurous. Hayward danced her role superbly.

Hans-Peter, Herr Drosselmeyer’s nephew caught in the spell as the Nutcracker, was danced with debonair panache by expat Australian Alexander Campbell.

It was interesting to note that both Clara and Hans-Peter join in the ‘national dances ‘ featured in Act 2. In most productions this is not the case.

The dances were memorable. The Spanish Dance was vibrant in red and black, the Arabian mesmerising , sultry and exotic, sinuously sculptural in parts , featuring some most unusual lifts – and with hints of Fokine?! The Chinese dance has been revised and is performed in turquoise and white, and features plenty of jumps.

As The Sugarplum Fairy and her Prince, Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli showed us a glorious example of what a 19th Century Russian grand classical ballet pas de deux can be like. It was extremely elegant and refined and featured dazzling technique,  a couple of tricky lifts and a jaw-dropping run and jump by Cuthbertson into a ‘ fish-dive ‘.

Cuthbertson revels in the slow, luscious back-bends and held arabesques and her famous solo was crisply elegant while Bonelli shows off his glittering technique too – combining his regal bearing, splendid elevation, soft landings and supportive partnering . There were allusions, in Act 2, to the big pas deux from Swan Lake .

The Rose Fairy, as sweetly danced by Yuhui Choe, was lovely, and featured crisp , fleet footwork and lovely epaulement. At one point it felt like we were meant to pick up references to the Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty.

There was plenty of misty dry ice for the clouds for the Christmas tree angels that seem to glide and the huge sleigh that Clara and Hans -Peter travel in is opulent.

This was wonderful Christmas fare. The Royal Ballet’s production of THE NUTCRACKER took place at The Royal Opera House between 23th November 2016 and 12th January 2017.The screening is of the performance that took place on 8th December 2016.

Screening time is 2 hours and 50 minutes. The film includes behind the scenes interviews, in particular an interview with Sir Peter Wright. There is one interval.

The final screenings of THE NUTCRACKER are tomorrow (Sunday) at Palace Verona at 11.30 am and Palace Norton Street at 1 pm and Palace Verona at 11.30 am on Wednesday 8th February at 11.30 am.