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Recommended Recordings: The Nutcracker

With so many DVD, Blu-Ray and CD recordings of the Christmas classic on offer, how do you choose between them?

By Gerard Davis (Journalist)

2 December 2015 at 12.14pm | 5 Comments

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without The Nutcracker, the go-to favourite of ballet companies (and audiences) around the world. Fortunately, there are many versions to choose from on DVD and Blu-Ray, so you can enjoy the experience at home as well as in the theatre.

Peter Wright’s production for The Royal Ballet is many people's Nutcracker of choice. As traditional as Christmas pudding, it boasts lavish sets, gorgeous costumes and quite the most spectacular transformation scene you are likely to see. We have two versions available, from 2000 and 2009 respectively. Both star the breathtaking Miyako Yoshida as the Sugar Plum Fairy. In the first her prince is Royal Ballet legend Jonathan Cope, with an emergent Alina Cojocaru as Clara and Ivan Putrov as the Nutcracker. There’s an excellent bonus on this DVD showing the technical magic that makes the transformation scene work. Broadcast in cinemas worldwide in 2009, the newer recording features Steven McRae as the Prince, with Iohna Loots as Clara and Ricardo Cervera as the Nutcracker. Whichever you choose, you’ll be getting The Royal Ballet’s full Nutcracker experience to enjoy all year round.

Amidst a host of filmed Nutcrackers, a new one of note comes from Berlin State Ballet. As with The Royal Ballet's version, it’s a fully traditional production with lavish décor and costumes, which shows off an excellent company. Iana Salenko, who has been a very welcome guest dancer with The Royal Ballet recently, gives a spellbinding performance.

Tchaikovsky’s wondrous score has been recorded more times than Christmas has come round itself.  Many are of extremely high quality but we particularly recommend André Previn’s celebrated recording on Warner Classics. If you want a grander version, there’s Valery Gergiev’s glittering recording on Universal. Previn’s is the more lyrical and expansive rendition, and Gergiev’s the more exciting. In truth, both recordings are must-hears and you could just as well do with both! Previn’s has the benefit of an abridged recording of La Sylphide on the second disc, and cover art featuring The Royal Ballet’s production.

If you're introducing the ballet to a new generation, we can heartily recommend Prunella Scales’ narrated recording. Scales brings the story to life, and the CD features the most popular musical moments from the score too. Great for children of all ages.

The ROH Online Shop offers a wide range of opera and ballet recordings and merchandise. Free postage is offered until 7 December 2015

The Nutcracker runs from 23 November 2016 –12 January 2017. Tickets are still available.

The production is supported is given with generous philanthropic support from Hans and Julia Rausing, Peter Lloyd and the Friends of Covent Garden.

This article has 5 comments

  1. Joy Sable responded on 7 December 2015 at 3:25pm Reply

    I still prefer the Lesley Collier/Anthony Dowell/Julie Rose recording I have. Interesting to note the differences in the final pdd. By the way, so sorry to hear of Bryony Brind's passing. She was a rare talent and did not have all the right opportunities due to her.

  2. CMM responded on 8 December 2015 at 5:23pm Reply

    Is the 2009 Royal Ballet recording the one that will be broadcast in some US cinemas on Sunday 13 December 2015?

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 9 December 2015 at 12:25pm

      Hello there,

      Yes, due to programming reasons some cinemas have decided to screen the 2009 version instead of the Live on Dec 16th.

      Best wishes,

      Sarah

  3. William Swales responded on 8 December 2015 at 7:28pm Reply

    Two other wonderful ‘must-see’ DVD versions of ‘The Nutcracker’ released this year to put into the yuletide stockings of every ballet fan, are George Balanchine’s ‘true to the story’ ‘The Nutcracker’ performed by the New York City Ballet (gasp at the virtuosity of the tin soldier) - fully restored to deliver all of its exquisite glory; and ‘Nutcracker the motion picture’ performed by Pacific North West Ballet, with fabulous costumes and sets designed by Maurice Sendak – again – the immaculate restoration ‘delivers’ and the fabulous lifts in the two pas de deux blow you away. Both have ‘bridging’ narration to lead one into the mystery, thrill, and majesty of each magical scene as Clara travels through the ‘radula space’ with her beloved nutcracker - and Patricia Barker is on fire.

    And on the subject of ETA Hoffmann - restored in 4K by Martin Scorsese from the original Technicolor negatives, the Powell and Pressburger classic film ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’– featuring Moira Shearer; Robert Helpmann; and Leonide Massine - has just been released on DVD and BluRay.

    Enjoy a wonderful Saturnalia

  4. I've just bought the 2000 recording with Cojocaru / Dowell, however in 2013 I was so lucky to have caught the Hinkis / Avis version live at the ROH, which is going to be broadcast on Sky Arts tomorrow, and has been for the past 2 Christmases.

    Are there plans to release the latter, more recent version of the Nutcracker, on DVD? If so, I'd be first in line to treasure it; it doesn't get much better.

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