How a scary fairy tale becomes a Christmas classic

The story of The Nutcracker is loosely based on a scary fairy-tale penned by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816 that was intended only for adults. Years later, a new version of the story made it nicer and more appropriate for children. Marius Petipa, chief ballet master of the Russian Imperial Ballet, liked this story and decided to have it made into a ballet in the 1890’s. He commissioned Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky to write the music.

The now-famous story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is about a girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve. The nutcracker wages a victorious battle against the evil Mouse King. Unfortunately, the first performance of the Nutcracker was a failure. In a letter to a friend, Tchaikovsky himself wrote, “Apparently the opera gave pleasure, but the ballet not really; and, as a matter of fact, in spite of all the sumptuousness it did turn out to be rather boring.”

Despite the disaster of its original performance, The Nutcracker has become one of the most performed ballets and an introduction to the ballet for many people. There are productions of The Nutcracker all across the country and around the world during November and December. The Nutcracker is performed in hundreds of different ways with unique stage designs and costumes. Find a ballet near you and create a holiday tradition with your family and friends.

Atlanta Ballet

Hong Kong Ballet

New York City Ballet

Royal Ballet London

San Francisco Ballet