Posted on 12 April 2017 By Rose Mulready

The sumptuous glamour of the Imperial Theatres. The rich brocades of a Tsar's ballroom. The Deco dazzle of post-war Australia. It's all in Kristian Fredrikson's incomparable designs for Graeme Murphy's Nutcracker - The Story of Clara. Fredrikson, who delighted in period detail, excelled himself in this ballet, which takes us from St Petersburg at the turn of the century to 1950s Melbourne. On the way we discover Bolshevik rats, Egyptian dock labourers and snowflakes: but today, we exult in the shimmering detail of Fredrikson's costumes for Clara's triumphs on stage and in high society. Zoom in close to marvel at the layers of embellishment and pitch-perfect detail that make these pieces shine.

This is the tutu that Clara wears to take the Mariinsky Theatre by storm as she dances the Sugar Plum Fairy. With her lover admiring her from the auditorium and all St Petersburg at her feet, it's the peak of her career as prima ballerina.

Costume photography Nick Manuell / Lucinda Dunn and Paul Knobloch as Clara and her Prince Partner. Photography Branco Gaica

The costume for Clara's partner in the grand pas de deux from The Nutcracker - he's a suitably princely consort for the Sugar Plum Fairy. His breeches and headdress echo real-life costumes worn by late-19th-century dancers such as Pavel Gerdt, who created the role of the Prince in The Nutcracker.

Costume photography Nick Manuell / Joshua Consandine as the Prince Partner. Photography Branco Gaica

This is a tutu for a corp de ballet girl from the Mariinsky Theatre scene. Fredrikson has lavished the same attention on it as the costumes for the principals. Note the floral plates on the skirt and the leaves on the bodice, perfect for the Waltz of the Flowers.

Photography Nick Manuell

The Tsarina welcomes Clara to a state occasion in a gown of such wanton opulence that is seems to prefigure the people's uprising that will shortly occur.

Costume photography Nick Manuell / Damien Welch as the Tsar and Jane Casson as the Tsarina. Photography Branco Gaica

Clara's last performance, as World War II reaches its end, is with the Borovansky Ballet. The ballet is The Nutcracker, which she performed at the Mariinsky; she takes her final bows in the Princess Theatre. The girls in the corps wear the abbreviated tutus of the time, a sharp contrast to the stately bell skirts of Clara's St Petersburg.

Costume photography Nick Manuell / Heidi Martin and artists of The Australian Ballet. Photography Branco Gaica

The Deco detailing of the 'Borovansky Ballet' costumes recall the architectural features of the period's theatres.

Costume photography Nick Manuell / Artists of The Australian Ballet. Photography Branco Gaica

These costumes don't need stage lights to shine. Even in the costume atelier, they're deliciously bright.


Find out more about Kristian Fredrikson's designs, and the travelling scholarship established as a memorial to this great artist.

Photography Ally Deacon