Clara, a young girl, creeps downstairs on Christmas Eve to retrieve her favourite present. But a mysterious magician, Drosselmeyer, is waiting to sweep her off on a magical adventure.
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker score was commissioned by the director of the Russian Imperial Theatres, following the resounding success of Sleeping Beauty in 1890. Marius Petipa created the scenario – based on a fairytale by E. T. A. Hoffman – and Lev Ivanov provided the choreography. The Nutcracker was first performed in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. It initially had a poor reception, but its combination of enchanting choreography and an unforgettable score have since made it one of the best-loved of all ballets.
In Peter Wright's classic production, the stage sparkles with theatrical magic – a Christmas tree grows before our eyes, toy soldiers come to life to fight the villainous Mouse King and Clara is whisked to the Land of Sweets on a golden sleigh. Tchaikovsky's score contains some of the best-known melodies in ballet, from the flurrying sounds of the Waltz of the Snowflakes to the dream-like Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the vigorous Russian Dance. Julia Trevelyan Oman's designs draw upon 19th-century images of Christmas, making this a classic production for the festive season.
News and features
21 February 2014
A look at the balletic trope of breaking narrative for dance showpieces.
13 December 2013
Another chance to see the backstage film screened as part of our live cinema relay.
5 December 2013
What did you think of The Royal Ballet's Christmas ballet?
29 November 2013
A quick guide to the classic Christmas favourite.
12 November 2013
How Tchaikovsky used an entirely new instrument to score the Sugar Plum Fairy's famous solo.
10 October 2013
The Royal Ballet Principal answers your questions before her return to the stage in Romeo and Juliet.