The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A critic “unwraps” the holiday gift of Tchaikovsky’s music and other mysteries in “The Nutcracker.” The production by the Madison Ballet and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra opens this Friday and runs through Dec. 27. | December 6, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps it is because it is so popular, especially at holiday time when it has become an annual tradition almost everywhere.

Perhaps it is because it is basically a story about children and the holidays, especially Christmas.

Whatever the reason, the ballet “The Nutcracker” by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky is usually seen as a largely naïve work, an innocent fairy tale or fantasy with some darker undertones.

Madison Ballet The Nutcracker title screen

But the truth is that, if you dig into it, “The Nutcracker” is far more complex than most people usually think.

Of course it was meant to be more about dance — classical ballet — than about the music.

Yet it is the beautiful music by one of history’s greatest melody writers that draws so many people to the work.

Madison Ballet Nutcracker WCO playing

And according to one writer for The New York Times, of the many mysteries layered in “The Nutcracker,” the music remains one of the biggest mysteries. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear a 2012 performance by conductor Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky Theatre in St, Petersburg, Russia.)

It is always especially relevant at this time of the year.

So The Ear is posting about the production by the Madison Ballet and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which opens this coming Friday night for nine performances in Overture Hall of the Overture Center.

It features the choreography of Madison Ballet’s artistic director W. Earle Smith (below top) and the live music by the WCO under the baton of its longtime music director Andrew Sewell (below bottom).

w. earle smith

AndrewSewellnew

Here are performance dates:

December 12  |  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday

December 13  |  2 p.m. Sunday

December 19  |  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday

December 20  |  2 p.m. Sunday

December 24  |  1 p.m. Thursday

December 26  |  2 p.m. Saturday

December 27  |  2 p.m. Sunday

Here are links with detail of the performances and the production, including tickets, which start at $14:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/nutcracker/

http://www.madisonballet.org/nutcracker/

Madison Ballet The Nutcracker

And here is a link to a story in The New York Times with some excellent background about various productions and their interpretations:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/arts/dance/the-nutcracker-and-its-many-mysteries.html?_r=0

If you go see and hear “The Nutcracker,” enjoy — and solve or at least appreciate — some of the mysteries in this evergreen holiday work!

 

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1 Comment »

  1. I believe it is precisely because there is no mystery about the music–it is lush, and simply stunningly beautiful with some of the most gorgeous melodies in classical music–that The Nutcracker has been such a fan favorite for so long. It is a feast for the senses.

    No need to over intellectualize it. Just sit and soak in the beauty of it all.

    Comment by fflambeau — December 6, 2015 @ 10:08 pm


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