It is Christmas Eve and Dr Stahlbaum and his wife, a former ballerina, are giving a party. They have two children: Clara, who is 15 and training to be a dancer, and her younger brother, Fritz. Mrs Stahlbaum has invited some of Clara’s friends from the ballet school, who dance for the guests, after which they ask her to dance. She has also invited a magician, Drosselmeyer, to provide an entertainment. He brings gifts for the young children and gives a Nutcracker doll to Clara; she is fascinated by it, and her belief that it has magical powers is confirmed when her brother breaks it and the doll strangely mends itself.
The party comes to an end, the guests depart and the family retires to bed. Unable to sleep, Clara creeps downstairs looking for the Nutcracker. As the clock strikes midnight, strange things begin to happen. The whole room seems to grow and grow and a horde of giant rats, led by their King, attack Clara. The Nutcracker springs to life and, summoning the toy soldiers, defends her. A battle ensues. Realising that the Nutcracker is about to be overpowered, Clara hits the Rat King with her shoe and he collapses. The Nutcracker falls exhausted to the ground, seemingly lifeless. Sadly, Clara takes him in her arms and tries to revive him. He gradually comes back to life and, to her amazement, has turned into a handsome Prince. He dances with her, then leads her to the Land of Snow, where the winds transport her into the night sky.
Clara flies through the clouds and arrives in a strange place, where a fantastic world is conjured up by Drosselmeyer. He shows her the sun, the moon, flowers and dancers from many different lands. The Rat King bursts in, but the Nutcracker Prince and Drosselmeyer banish him forever. Drosselmeyer now puts on a grand entertainment in Clara’s honour as a reward for her bravery. She joins in many of the dances and is finally transformed into the Sugar Plum Fairy, the ballerina of her dreams. The Nutcracker Prince reappears and dances with her. As the dancing reaches its climax the dream world vanishes and Clara awakens at the foot of the Christmas tree.
Choreography Peter Wright, Lev Ivanov, Vincent Redmon
Production Peter Wright
Guest Repetiteur Mark Kay
Composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Costume and set design John F Macfarlane
Original lighting design David Finn
Lighting design Jon Buswell
by Birmingham Royal Ballet on 29 December 1990
by The Australian Ballet on 18 September 2007
These seasons of The Nutcracker were generously supported by The Margaret Ellen Pidgeon Fund for Classical Ballet.