The Australian Ballet are currently at the Sydney Opera House presenting Peter Wright’s 1990 Birmingham Royal Ballet version, which has been in the repertoire since 2007. It is a different version to the Royal Ballet one by Wright, filmed for ROH Live which I have reviewed ,and there is also in the Australian Ballet’s box of treasures Graeme Murphy’s fabulous Australianised version.
This version is quite traditional, a wonderful first ballet and is full of opulent set designs, (at times a little heavy perhaps ), some amazing costumes and sensational dancing . Lighting – originally by David Finn here recreated by Jon Buswell was terrific and the Christmas tree growing was enchanting.
Nicolette Frailon energetically and enthusiastically led the wonderful Orchestra , in a lush sparkling rendition of Tchaikovsky’s luminous music. (But – I could be wrong – no children’s choir for the waltz of the snowflakes at the end of Act 1 and no Celeste for the dance of the Sugarplum fairy? )
An underlying theme is growing up and young love. It is also full of the dance world as Clara is a young hopeful dancer and her mother a former ballerina .It starts in a very Victorian era household and is a huge family affair .it was a treat to see two Australian Ballet legends return to the stage – Colin Peasley and Kathleen Geldard as the grandparents. Clara’s mother ( I saw Ingrid Gow) wears a stunning red dress and has an imposing solo before leading some of the dances . There is also Fritz, Clara’s annoying rather horrid little brother , numerous friends of the family etc … Karen Nanasca was delightful as wide eyed Clara , the main protagonist , who is given a magical Nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve, which prompts a series of dreamed adventures both nightmarish and eventually joyous .
Her Nutcracker Prince was chivalrously , tremendously danced by Christopher Rodgers- Wilson.
The villainous King Rat in opulent robes and with long, flowing mane was regally, loomingly danced by Edward Smith.
Drosseymeyer here is presented as a mysterious manipulative magician (tall ,imposing Andrew Killian) , rather than Clara’s uncle , in exotic brocade robes that swirl and at times he stretches his arms and becomes almost bat like. (His assistant , Daniel Byrne had some amazing jumps and choreography too ).
It was interesting to note that the large silver boxes for Harlequin and Columbine ( Mason Lovegrove and Rina Nemoto )had the moon and the sun on them , Columbine emerging from the one with the sun , Harlequin the moon. Liam Redhead as the Jack in the Box was extraordinary with his sensational jumps. All three were at times rather menacing, other times helpful .
The other suites of dances included the following – A slinky, sultry Arabian dance .The Spanish dance was dramatic in red and black with sinuous curves and infectious rhythms .The Chinese dance was for two gentlemen in yellow and black . The mirlitons dance was a quartet of charming young ladies in red and black. The Russian dance was a darting, breathless male trio .Clara was involved in all of them to a degree.
Our Sugar Plum Fairy was radiantly danced by Benedicte Bemet .
The big pas de deux she performed with the Nutcracker Prince was greeted with roars of approval.
The waltz of the snowflakes that ends Act 1 was full of criss crossing patterns of choreography filling the stage, with undulating arms. Our Snow Fairy leading them was Nicola Curry.The icy designs were visually thrilling .
In Act 2 the huge waltz of the flowers led by the Rose Fairy ( Rina Nemoto) , her consorts and leading flowers was another massive ensemble piece full of precise , challenging choreography and visually a wash of pinks and pale greens.
A traditional Christmas family ballet great for the holiday season.
Running time roughly 2 hours 15 minutes including interval
The Australian Ballet in Peter Wright’s the Nutcracker runs at the Sydney Opera House 30 Nov -18 Dec 2019