Friday December 18, 2020 Smile of the Day: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite

On this Day:

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Nutcracker Suite” premieres in Saint Petersberg, Russia.  It is now the world’s most performed ballet.  But that wasn’t always the case.

The Nutcracker  is an 1892 two-act ballet (“fairy 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”.

The first performance of the ballet was held as a double premiere together with Tchaikovsky’s last opera, Iolanta, on 18 December 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Although the libretto was by Marius Petipa, who exactly choreographed the first production has been debated. Petipa began work on the choreography in August 1892; however, illness removed him from its completion and his assistant of seven years, Lev Ivanov, was brought in. Although Ivanov is often credited as the choreographer, some contemporary accounts credit Petipa. The performance was conducted by Italian composer Riccardo Drigo, with Antonietta Dell’Era as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Pavel Gerdt as Prince Coqueluche, Stanislava Belinskaya as Clara, Sergei Legat as the Nutcracker-Prince, and Timofey Stukolkin as Drosselmeyer. Unlike in many later productions, the children’s roles were performed by real children – students of the Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg, with Belinskaya as Clara, and Vassily Stukolkin as Fritz – rather than adults.

The first performance of The Nutcracker was not deemed a success.

But the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was. 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% of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker. The ballet’s score has been used in several film adaptations of Hoffmann’s story.

Tchaikovsky’s score has become one of his most famous compositions. 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 (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Why did the ballet instructor make her students practice The Nutcracker so often? To keep them on their toes.

Second, a Song:

There are many, MANY renditions of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker.  This version is by GlassDuo at the “Festival di Santo Stefano” in Bologna, Italy.GlassDuo have created an exceptional musical instrument from a set of custom made wine glasses.  The result is the biggest professional #GlassHarp in the world (per  

GlassDuo was founded by Anna and Arkadiusz Szafraniec. They are the only glass harp music group in Poland, one of few professional ensembles worldwide.

They perform both solo concerts and concerts with additional musicians. They have performed with string quartets, various chamber ensembles, even symphony orchestras. They have had several world premieres of musical works composed especially for them. They have also made numerous recordings for radio, TV and theatre productions (per Wikipedia).

Here is the Sugar Plum Fairy by Tchaikovsky performed by GlassDuo. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

‘The Nutcracker’ is the ballet that keeps on giving. – David H. Koch

In response to the Wright Bros. / Snoopy Smile, Gerry Wahl of North Vancouver, BC, stated: “Good One! The Xmas WWI trench story will always be a good one — sometimes it appears there is hope for humanity.”


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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