The Nutcracker - 10 Things You Never Knew

The-nutcracker-o2With the holiday season fast approaching, our thoughts are turning to mince pies, crackers and mulled wine, but what would a great British Christmas be without a performance of The Nutcracker?



Well, with six evening and matinee shows taking place this December at The O2 Arena, you can book your tickets now and take the whole family to enjoy this timeless festive classic. And to help get you in the spirit, we’ve got ten fun facts you may not know about this great Christmas ballet.

Tchaikovsky’s score was released before the ballet
Before The Nutcracker ballet was premiered in December 1892, Tchaikovsky had played the suite as a concert performance, nine months earlier in March. It was instantly a huge success, something the ballet would strangely not be so quick to achieve.

The Nutcracker ballet wasn’t a success at first
Despite an enduring appeal that has lasted more than 100 years, the initial reception to The Nutcracker was surprisingly far less positive. Critics were not impressed, with many finding fault with not only the ballet but also with Tchaikovsky’s now timeless score.

The ballet premiered with Tchaikovsky’s final opera
Maybe the critics were just tired and crabby, as at its premiere The Nutcracker was performed as part of a double bill with Tchaikovsky’s final opera, Iolanta. This caused the premiere to end after midnight, which is rumoured to have contributed to its poor critical reception.

Tchaikovsky wasn’t happy with his score
Surprisingly, however, even Tchaikovsky himself wasn’t a huge fan of his work on The Nutcracker Suite. Allegedly he was given such strict guidelines to work within, by choreographer Marius Petipa, that he felt his creativity was stifled throughout and didn’t enjoy his time working on the composition.

It introduced the celesta to audiences
Something he must’ve have enjoyed, though, was his introduction of the celesta – a piano that uses steel plates rather than strings, to create a unique tone. Tchaikovsky found the instrument in France and introduced its unusual sound to audiences throughout The Nutcracker’s score.

Tchaikovsky died without seeing its success
Despite its long-lasting appeal, Tchaikovsky was unfortunately unable to enjoy all the success of The Nutcracker, as he died less than a year after its release. Aged just 53 when he died, the cause of his death has long been argued and debated by contemporary historians.

It took 42 years to get to Europe
Following its release in December 1892, it took until 1934 before The Nutcracker was finally performed in full outside of Russia. The premiere European performance took place in England, although an abridged version had been performed in Budapest seven years earlier.

It took 52 years to get to the USA
It then took a further 10 years before The Nutcracker finally reached American shores, with its debut performance taking place Stateside courtesy of the San Francisco Ballet in 1944. It was then a further decade later that it reached the East Coast, premiering in New York in 1954.

The Simpsons have danced The Nutcracker
As well as Disney’s now legendary use of The Nutcracker Suite in the 1940 animated film, Fantasia, the suite was also featured in a 2005 episode of The Simpsons, titled Simpsons Christmas Stories, with key characters from Springfield singing along to the ever-popular Christmas tunes.

Its music has been featured in several video games
And is if that weren’t enough, The Nutcracker has also been heard in several popular video games over the past 20 years, popping up in addictive PC classic Lemmings, then in Nintendo’s fantastic Yoshi’s Story and finally in the critically-acclaimed Bioshock back in 2007.

With such an incredible legacy behind it, the classic music of The Nutcracker is as much a part of Christmas as mince pies, bad jokes and turkey, so why not to book your tickets now to be sure not to miss out? With six evening and matinee performances to choose from, between 27 – 30 December, you can take the whole family and enjoy this timeless Christmas classic.

Visit O2 to book your tickets for The Nutcracker at The O2 Arena now!