Fun Facts About The Nutcracker

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As we enter our final weekend of The Nutcracker for 2013, we’d like to thank everyone who made California Ballet a part of their family holiday traditions. We love what we do, and we love sharing it with you! As a special treat, here are seven fun facts about The Nutcracker that you might not know. Memorize them and impress your friends with your knowledge of all things ballet!

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1. In Germany, there is a folklore tradition based on the idea that nutcrackers protect your family and bring your home good luck. For this reason, nutcrackers were often given to children at Christmastime.

2. The libretto for The Nutcracker ballet is based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffman entitled “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. The original story is much darker than the ballet, featuring a bloody battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King’s army, and the backstory of how the prince was changed into a nutcracker.

3. When The Nutcracker was first performed in Russia in 1892, it was a critical flop. It wasn’t until George Balanchine’s production of the ballet in 1954 that the show began to gain popularity. By the late 1960s, The Nutcracker established itself as the essential ballet of the holiday season. Balanchine’s choreography is the version most often performed to this day.

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4. At the first performance of The Nutcracker, the roles of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince were played by children. In later professional productions, these roles were given to adult dancers.

5. Although Tchaikovsky’s score for The Nutcracker is one of the best known pieces of his music, he did not feel it was his best work. The composer apparently felt that his earlier composition, the ballet Sleeping Beauty, was far superior to The Nutcracker.

6. Tchaikovsky died less than a year after the original production of The Nutcracker, never knowing the impact his work would have on audiences around the world for decades to come.

7. The uniquely twinkling instrument you hear in “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is a celesta. Tchaikovsky smuggled this relative of the piano into Russia from Paris to add a unique sound to accompany the character of the Sugar Plum Fairy.


A special thank you to our Nutcracker sponsors: The Westgate Hotel, Sycuan Resort and Casino, and Coleman University.

And thank you to our Season Sponsors: The Hermann Foundation, The City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, Google, Inc., and San Diego Theatres, Inc.

CBC Holidays


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