Ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the ballet „The Nutcracker" in 1891-1892. Its premiere was on 18 December 1892 in the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. The premiere didn't have great success.
For a first time the ballet was set outside Russia in 1934, in England. In 1944 „The Nutcracker" was set also in the USA, in San Francisco. After 10 years Tchaikovsky's work was played in New York where it had an enormous success. Since then the ballet was being set traditionally every year for Christmas. The libretto of „The Nutcracker" was written by Vsevolozhski - Petipa, based on Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann's play of the same name. Hoffmann was a German writer, composer, conductor, musical critic and painter. An overall developed personality, till the end of his life he considered himself to be mainly a composer. His work is classified by the cultural historians to the late romanticism. Hoffmann's contemporaries, among whom Schiller and Heine, showed disregard for his works. Only after his death the interest in his works was reborn.
The libretto of „The Nutcracker" at first sight represents an interesting fairy tale: Outside is a beautiful winter. Children are playing and making a snowman. In Masha's house the elder are finishing the Christmas decoration. The first guests arrive and the Christmas tree starts shining with incredible beauty. Masha and Fedya are dancing merrily around it and playing with their dolls. The guests are dancing too, together with the children.
Masha is searching Drosselmeyer among the guests in order to see what kind of present he has brought for her. At last Drosselmeyer arrives together with his assistants. They carry in the house many presents made for the Christmas night. Dressed in a cape, Drosselmeyer, who is a magician, shows before the guests dances of distant and exotic peoples.
Immediately after, the magician amazes the present ones with his new invention - a soldier-toy which can crack nuts. All children get in love with the soldier. Suddenly the toy breaks down. Masha becomes sad and asks Drosselmeyer to repair it. After her wish was fulfilled by the magician, she plays merry dances with the Nutcracker. At the end, tired, she falls asleep in an arm-chair. She dreams of evil forces who want to steal her favourite doll. Masha starts fighting with the Black Queen. To her aid comes not someone else, but the Nutcracker. In spite of the resistance, the Queen captures the Nutcracker.
The girl is suffering a lot and begs Drosselmeyer to help her. Both get transported into the Kingdom of Dark forces. Everything around is ice-bound but the good magician succeeds to chase away the evil sorcerers. Suddenly, the Nutcracker transforms into a beautiful prince. Masha and the prince fall in love with each other. The moon becomes a boat and transports them into the Kingdom of Flowers. Everybody there is happy and dancing merry dances. Little by little, the night goes away. Masha awakes and hugs her favourite doll the Nutcracker.
In the years he was writing his music of genius of the ballets „Swan Lake", „The Sleeping Beauty", „The Nutcracker", the operas „Eugene Onegin", „The Queen of Spades" and his many symphonies, Tchaikovsky /1840-1893/ had an unhappy private life. In 1866, he was appointed as professor in theory and harmony at Moscow Academy of Music. That position the composer held until 1878. The reason to withdraw from the lecturer's work was the rich widow - the baroness Nadezhda von Meck. Tchaikovsky and the baroness were in correspondence with each other for 13 clear years. Nadezhda adored the composer's music. She had a proposal for him. She gave him an early annuity of roubles 6000 so that he could create in calmness. Her condition was that they were never to meet. The genius and his patroness met only twice but they behaved as strangers.
Once Tchaikovsky informed the baroness he intended to get married. The singer Antonina Miliukova wrote him a letter that she was in love with him. Tchaikovsky was startled and flattered at the same time. Despite everything, he didn't pay attention to the young lady. But Antonina was in love and she decided to achieve her end. She wrote a second letter to the eminent musician and begged him not to be indifferent. Pyotr Ilyich guessed that the baroness could cease with her maintenance if he decided to marry. At the end he contracted a marriage but Nadezhda von Meck at once forgot about him. Tchaikovsky confessed himself before the baroness. „My wife - he reported to her - is doing her best to please me. Our home is cosy. Everything is clean, new and beautiful. But I am looking at all that with hatred and spite."
Nadezhda advised the maestro to get used with his wife. At this stage Tchaikovsky was close to the thought of suicide. He called for no reason his wife an intruder. Thus, the composer parted from Miliukova but he didn't divorce. Antonina was heart-broken and she entered a clinic for mentally ill people. There she spent the rest of her life.
Thanks to Nadezhda von Meck's efforts, Tchaikovsky survived the horror to be married. Before his patroness he shared: „After the parting, I finally realized that nothing is so useless than to make yourself what you are not. Now I am not just living but I am also working. I know that you don't need to thank you all the time. I would like, however, to tell you that I owe to you everything, everything. I love you infinitely. Yours P. Tchaikovsky".
Nadezhda von Meck lived only three months longer than the great composer. She was buried in the graveyard of Novoalexeevsky Monastery in Moscow. Today this graveyard doesn't exist - a highway passes over it. Nobody knows also where was buried Tchaikovsky's official spouse.
Prince Felix Yusupov, count Sumarоkov-Elston - junior /1887-1967/, one of the eminent representatives of the Russian aristocracy, wrote his memories in exile. From London and Paris where he lived he pointed out that he wanted to acquaint the Western world with the Russian geniuses. The prince gave a solid amount from his wealth in order to set „The Nutcracker" many years long for Christmas in Great Britain and France. Prince Yusupov was also the murderer of the muzhik Rasputin but in the history of Russian ballet he shall be remembered as a benefactor. „There is no other genius like Tchaikovsky, emphasized the prince in his memories. I can and I must always be on the side of his great music works".
„The Nutcracker" is a phenomenon which was played with great success since its creation and it is one of these works which the prince glorified till the end of his life.