A Ballet in Two Acts, Four Scenes and a Prologue
Scenes and a Prologue.
Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and The Mouse King (1816)
The original production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® was generously underwritten by The State of Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Southeast Banking Corporation Foundation.
Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® is dedicated to Toby Lerner Ansin, whose energy, enthusiasm and support provided the spark that ignited Miami City Ballet.
Miami City Ballet premiered The Nutcracker on November 23, 1990 at the Hayes Hall, Artis Theatre in Naples, Florida.
ACT I – Scene 1
It is Christmas Eve. A blanket of snow covers the city of Nuremberg, as an angel flies overhead the city looking for Dr. and Frau Stalbaum’s house, the house where Marie and Fritz live. All the while, a bright Christmas star glows in the sky.
As George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® opens, Dr. and Frau Stahlbaum add last minute decorations to the magnificent tree in their living room. Marie and Fritz, are in the drawing room, playing and waiting for family and friends to arrive. When they do, the parents are the first to gather in the living room. They call the children in and watch their excited reactions to the tree and the fancy wrapped gifts surrounding it. The tree is a marvel, with branches full of sugar plum candies, wooden toys, sparkling candles, and marzipan animals.
The children have to wait for Fritz and Marie’s grandparents to arrive before gifts will be distributed, so they go back to play. Dr. Stahlbaum starts them off, leading the boys in a military march around the room. The march turns into a dance for the children and Frau Stahlbaum, with the fathers joining in.
When the Stahlbaum grandparents arrive, the adults toast the elders and then – finally – give the children their gifts. The presents are traditional, and very much appreciated: beautiful dolls for the girls, and toy bugles and drums for the boys.
In the midst of the excitement, the grandfather clock begins to chime, and it startles the children. A mysterious-looking man enters the room, cloaked in an enormous black cape and top hat, and wearing a black patch over one eye.
Oh, it’s only Herr Drosselmeier! He’s an inventor, a magician, and Marie’s godfather. Tonight, he has brought more than his usual array of strange gadgets – with him is his handsome young nephew. Marie seems bashful when they are introduced, but she keeps her eye on the princely boy after she runs back to her mother.
Noticing her shyness, Herr Drosselmeier pulls a fascinating little watch from his pocket. (Besides inventing gadgets and toys, Drosselmeier also fixes clocks.) He leads Marie to the Stahlbaum’s grandfather clock, which he synchronizes to the watch. Marie grabs the watch out of his hands and runs to show it to her friends, who then pester the inventor.
The children eventually quiet down after Drosselmeier performs a magic trick for them, which is just the beginning of his show. He has brought three large gift boxes tied with satin bows to the party. From the first two boxes, he and his nephew remove life-sized dancing dolls, Harlequin and Columbine. The third box yields a toy soldier, who thrills everyone with his military maneuvers.
Once the dolls are returned to their boxes, Drosselmeier brings out more gifts for Marie. The first is a hobby-horse, which becomes the center of a struggle between Marie and her brother, won by Fritz. Drosselmeier organizes a tug-of-war to try to smooth things over (silly Drosselmeier!), and then unveils his final gift for Marie.
The gift is a charming wooden doll with big expressive eyes, a fuzzy white beard, and a special talent for cracking nuts. Drosselmeier demonstrates its abilities before giving the Nutcracker to Marie.
As she admires the Nutcracker’s dashing uniform, the very jealous Fritz pulls the wooden figure away. He runs across the room, throws the Nutcracker to the floor, and stomps on it!
Drosselmeier scolds Fritz and then tries to comfort Marie. He carefully wraps the Nutcracker’s now-broken jaw with his handkerchief, and returns the doll to the heartbroken little girl. Her friends cluster around her, and Drosselmeier’s nephew presents Marie with a special bed for the injured Nutcracker.
The boys return one last time to disrupt the girls, but their play ends when Dr. Stahlbaum invites everyone to dance a final dance of the evening, in tribute to Fritz and Marie’s grandparents.
When the dance ends, the guests bid farewell and the children reluctantly leave. Marie and the nephew are the last to say goodbye. They reach toward each other, but Herr Drosselmeier and Frau Stahlbaum separate the pair before her mother sends Marie upstairs and turns out the lights. As midnight draws near, only the sweet sounds of a violin are heard, floating through the darkened house.
ACT I – Scene 2
The excitement of the evening has been too much for Marie, who is unable to fall asleep. She sneaks downstairs to visit her beloved Nutcracker and finally falls asleep on the couch with the doll clutched to her heart.
Within moments, a dark shadow – Drosselmeier – crosses the room. He looks for the Nutcracker in its special bed, but it’s not there. He notices Marie on the couch and moves to her side. Drosselmeier loosens the Nutcracker from her grasp, waves his hands as if performing magic to repair the doll, then carefully replaces the Nutcracker beside her.
All of a sudden, the lights flicker and wake a startled Marie. She sees Drosselmeier, perched on top of the grandfather clock! She runs to hide behind the Christmas tree but a huge, ragged-looking mouse enters the room and frightens her terribly! Marie dodges the mouse, but another mouse follows, jumping past Marie’s head. A third comes and a fourth!
As she backs away, the room starts to spin. The Christmas tree trembles and starts to grow. Life-sized soldiers appear, and then a rabbit, a sentry, and a bugler emerge from the shadows. Marie runs to protect her Nutcracker and manages to place him safely in his bed at the foot of the tree. She looks up to the tree for reassurance but it, too, continues to change, growing bigger and bigger. Glancing back, she sees that the Nutcracker’s toy bed has been replaced by one that is life-sized, and the Nutcracker in it is larger than she is!
An entire army of mice soon appears. With a toot on his horn, the bugler calls the toy soldiers to war. Led by the sentry and the rabbit drummer, the soldiers look to Marie for a command. She points them toward the mice, then wakes the Nutcracker so he can assume command of his troops. The Nutcracker leads charge after charge. He orders his troops to fire the cannon but it doesn’t shoot a cannonball…it shoots cheese, and the mice grab the food and return to the fight. The Nutcracker organizes one last charge into the heart of the army, but the mice surround the soldiers and carry them all away – all but the Nutcracker and the rabbit.
Without warning, the King of the Mice appears, jumping towards Marie. He’s an ugly fellow with a crown on his head and seven smaller heads all around. Drawing his saber, the Nutcracker protects Marie but the Mouse King returns the attack, swinging a gigantic sword of his own. The Nutcracker jumps on the creature’s back but is thrown off and trapped on the ground by the Mouse King’s sword. From behind, the rabbit pulls the Mouse King’s tail, causing the royal mouse to about-face. The Mouse King draws his sword but misses the rabbit.
Thankful for the rabbit’s diversion and back on his feet, the Nutcracker returns to battle the Mouse King but is again driven down. In desperation, Marie throws her slipper at the evil rodent. He turns and chases her to the Nutcracker’s bed, where she faints. Her brave act has saved the Nutcracker, who plunges his sword through the Mouse King’s heart. As the wicked brute lies dead on the floor, the Nutcracker cuts off the King’s crown and walks to the bed where Marie is sleeping.
ACT I – Scene 3
The Nutcracker beckons Marie’s bed to follow him on a journey. Moving as if by magic, the bed transports the sleeping Marie into another world, where the Nutcracker is magically transformed into a prince. He wakes Marie and presents her with the crown he captured in battle.
Together, they behold a breathtaking scene – a winter forest come to life in a sparkling dance of snowflakes. They pass through the flurry and begin their journey to the Land of the Sweets. As they walk, Marie notices that the Prince bears a striking resemblance to Drosselmeier’s nephew.
Marie and Prince are seen leaving the winter forest, looking for perhaps warmer weather. They soon start to see marine animals turn into doves and then into winged angels awaiting the arrival of the Sugarplum Fairy, who reigns over the Land of the Sweets. She soon enters and, bearing her magic wand, sweetly dances before summoning the other members of her kingdom to join her.
The Sugarplum Fairy welcomes Marie and the Prince to the Land of the Sweets and invites him to tell his tale. He describes the battle: how the toy soldiers fought the mice, and how he accepted the Mouse King’s challenge to fight for Marie’s safety. Finally, he demonstrates how Marie courageously saved his life.
The Sugarplum Fairy praises the Prince and his Princess, and then leads them to a throne specially positioned to give them the best view of the celebration, which is about to begin.
It’s a celebration of all things delicious! Sumptuous Spanish Hot Chocolate heat up in a spicy fandango – Arabian Coffee moves languidly through a Middle Eastern dance. Three Chinese Teas leap acrobatically around a lacquer box. Candy Canes prance exuberantly before their royal guests, led by an athletic Peppermint Stick, who jumps through a whirling hoop. Marzipan Shepherdesses remind Marie of the decorations on her Christmas tree, and with great fanfare, Mother Ginger reveals miniature Italian Polichinelles who dart out from under her huge skirt and dance in pairs.
Next, a beautiful group of dancing flowers make their entrance. Marie and the Prince taste sugar petals while the honey Dewdrop spins through the blooms in the Waltz of the Flowers.
Now comes the time when the Sugarplum Fairy, in a mint-green tutu, is escorted by her Cavalier to perform for her guests, beginning their classical pas de deux with soft adagio movements, and building to an exciting crescendo. Holding hands, Marie and the Prince are overwhelmed, hoping someday to dance as magically as that. Everyone joins in for a lively finale, a blaze of color, and celebration.
As the time to leave draws near, the Sugarplum Fairy leads her guests to a magic air balloon. The Prince and Princess wave goodbye and are flown to where the moon meets the sun.
Daybreak awaits, and Marie will soon wake. It is Christmas Day.
— Adapted from a note by Madeline Pober
Photos: Miami City Ballet dancers in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. Choreography by George Balanchine. © George Balanchine Trust. Photos by Alexander Iziliaev.