In the week leading up to Christmas we are inundated with Christmas carols, twinkling lights, thoughts of Santa Claus, and parties. Yes, I love this time of year, and there is so much fabulous classical music which perfectly accompanies this wonderful festive season.
And what would the holidays be without Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”?
Even the most recent newcomer to classical music will listen to this piece and say, “Hey – I know this!”. It’s true, the music is some of the most familiar classical music around, largely thanks to its heavy use in film & TV depicting this time of year.
Take for instance the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” (seen in the video above). This sweet and short moment extracted from the larger ballet is a perfect example of Tchaikovsky's characterful music in this ballet. His colorful and imaginative music depicts dances, rats, magical creatures, hot chocolate, and coffee - all things which appear to a young girl named Clara on one magical Christmas Eve.
Clara & Fritz Stahlbaum are at home with their parents, who are hosting a Christmas party for family and friends. The guests arrive, with their children, and both the adults and children begin to celebrate the holiday with a mixture of food, drink, conversation, and dancing.
Clara’s godfather, the mysterious Drosselmeyer, appears with inexplicably enchanted gifts. He presents Clara with a nutcracker, which her d-bag of a brother breaks almost immediately. Drosselmeyer scolds Fritz, and comforts Clara, making clear that he will fix it for her. Later in the evening, after friends and family have departed and her family is asleep, Clara sneaks downstairs to check on her beloved nutcracker, only to experience a supernatural evening of magical toys, mice, and many other charcaters.
Right now, the entire ballet of “The Nutcracker” is available on Netflix, danced by the New York City Ballet, and somewhat surprisingly, featuring Macaulay Culkin as Drosselmeyer’s nephew. It’s so entertaining, perfect for children, families, and adults to settle down and watch together – maybe with mugs of hot chocolate?
Curious to find out more about ballet? Watch ballet coaches from the Royal Ballet lead a rehearsal of The Nutcracker in this video below: