Christmas has officially begun as we venture to the Land of sweets once more with the Royal Ballet, greeted with splendour, majesty and magic.
There is no better companion to the festive season than Tchaikovsky’s twinkling notes of the celesta which instantaneously transport you to a magical realm of childhood dreams of dancing the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
There is so often a sense of déjà-vu this time of year. Settling yet again into plush velvet seats and the muffled hum of Christmas spirit in the air mixed with a buzz of champagne. However, as the curtain lifts to reveal a new rendition as breathtaking as the Royal Ballet, you almost feel a gust of shame for ever doubting.
This rendition brings a new sense of the story to the two brilliantly choreographed yet often disconnected acts. By giving Drosselmeyer a backstory we’re able to understand his need to follow Clara (Anna Rose O’Sullivan) to the Land of Sweets after her victory over the seven-headed Mouse King and makes perfect sense of why the Nutcracker (Marcelino Sambé) is so important to him.
With this revised choreography we’re also spared the unnecessary sight of Clara and the Nutcracker (aka Hans Peter) playing the part of the audience whilst a variety of divertissements have all the fun. Instead, they are whisked into the action, bringing far more joy to the stage. It also gives the rising stars more time to shine.
Unlike most other ballets, the Nutcracker holds its own peculiarity that the characters which we see the most of, Clara and Hans, are more often than not performed by soloists and first soloists.
It’s not until almost three-quarters of the magic in that the principles come into play as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince. Whilst each couple are strongly suited, the trick is to make the two carefully contrast each other and this season they’ve achieved this seamlessly.
Though there may have been moments where Sambé’s Nutcracker devoured the stage, O’Sullivan’s girlish portrayal painted a perfect portrait of first love. This, in turn, set the stage for the regal Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov who have since become ballets finest pairing in the world. The pair dance as if all of Newton’s laws are exempt to them and time has no barrier to their ever graceful portrayal of Christmas’ finest pairing.
Perfectly on pointe in every sense of the term, yet every move Nuñez’s makes seems to be as spontaneous and free as an improvisation of the classic dance. All whilst Muntagirov owned his own excellently executed triptych of jumps. The pair foreshadowing in every move the couple that O’Sullivan and Sambé could one day become.
Elsewhere in the Palace Arabian nights and Chinese days were a show of beauty, skill and humour. With highlights coming from Melissa Hamilton’s seductiveness and Luca Acri and Leo Dixon who made up for their lack of synchronicity with their air light performances.
And we cannot forget the sparkling performances from the young dancers at the Royal Ballet School who are given their own slice of a Christmas pudding by tasting what their futures could hold if they progress through the company ranks.
The set designers at the Royal Opera House cannot be beaten for their injection of Christmas spirit. The intricately designed tree and the festive warmth of the fireplace is worth the ticket price alone. It’s a traditional Victorian Christmas which will fill you with a generous helping of festive spirit and some serious tree envy.
Words Millie Davy-McVay | Subbing Millie Richardson