A Little on The Nutcracker

For those of you who are interested, our official Fundraiser Tally as of this morning is:


Pretty amazing, right? We jumped over $15,000 in one night, and it’s all thanks to you! Keep spreading the word, keep pounding the pavement, we’ll meet our financial goal yet!

We have a new challenge for all of you: starting today, the first person or company to donate $500 will receive season tickets for two (2) for California Ballet Company’s 43rd Season!nutcracker3

Now, as the post title promised, let’s talk a little bit about The Nutcracker!

The Nutcracker is perhaps the best known ballet in the world. California Ballet Company brought San Diego it’s first resident, full length, professionally produced Nutcracker in 1971, permanently turning this town into a Nutcracker town.

But how much do you really know about the ballet itself?


The Nutcracker was first staged in 1892, at the Maryinski Theater in Moscow. Composed by the famous Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (who also composed the music for Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty), the music for this ballet is special in that it was composed in close collaboration with the Choreographer, Marius Petipa. That is to say, the music was tailor-made for the ballet!

Did you know that ultimately, Marius Petipa didn’t actually choreograph the ballet? When it came time to stage the ballet, Petipa was ill. In the end it was his assistant, another famous choreographer by the name of Lev Ivanov, who actually choreographed the original version of The Nutcracker!


And who do you suppose actually wrote the story of The Nutcracker? Well, the libretto of the ballet is credited to Lev Ivanov, but he was inspired by the famous German Romantic Author, E.T.A. Hoffman! Hoffman wrote a story titled Nussknacker und Mausekönig (or The Nutcracker and the Mouse King), which inspired Tchaikovsky and Petipa.



Guess what other Ballet E.T.A. Hoffman is famous for having inspired! None other than the ballet classic, Coppelia! Hoffman wrote a story titled Der Sandmann (or The Sandman), which later inspired the ballet!



But back to The Nutcracker: While Hoffman was the original author of The Nutcracker, if you look for a story version you’ll be more likely to come across one written by Alexander Dumas. It is a much lighter, less grotesque version of the story, which he titled The Nutcracker of Nuremburg.


Now, the ballet first made its appearance in the United States when it was presented by the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo in 1940. The first truly American production is credited to San Francisco Ballet, choreographed by William Christensen in 1944. George Balanchine’s version for the New York City Ballet followed in 1954, and San Diego saw its own version choreographed by California Ballet’s Maxine Mahon in 1971!


Of course we all know the story of The Nutcracker! It’s about a young girl (sometimes named Clara, sometimes named Marie) who is given a magical wooden Nutcracker for Christmas by her Uncle Drosselmeyer. Christmas Eve, after a wonderful party, she sneaks downstairs to get her Nutcracker and is swept up in a magical journey of giant rats, life sized toy soldiers, dancing snowflakes, the Kingdom of the Sweets, dancing flowers, and the Sugarplum Fairy! It’s a wonderful story that has enchanted countless generations of children.

California Ballet’s The Nutcracker has been enchanting children for the last 38 years! I bet you didn’t know that the second act of California Ballet’s production was actually staged for the fledgling company in 1969! It was performed in conjunction with Ms. Mahon’s Act II of Coppelia for three years before the young company was able to get enough funding for the full-length production!


All of the original costumes were designed and made by Director Maxine Mahon and her late mother (and San Diego’s first ballerina) Flora Jennings Small! I bet you didn’t know that Ms. Mahon is an accomplished costume designer and seamstress!


So, here we are 38 years later and still loving California Ballet’s The Nutcracker as if it were 1971! Our Nutcracker has become a tradition for many families. For our dancers as well as our faithful patrons, Christmas just isn’t the same without this ballet that has become so pivotal to nearly every ballet company around the world!


"For five generations of Nutcracker fans in our family (sadly this year’s will be our first without Grandma, who was 103 when she saw the Nutcracker in 2008), the California Ballet is "THE" company!"

— Pamela Holzman, Aug. 2009


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