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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker [Wiener Staatsballett/Legris/Nureyev] Blu-ray Review


The Performance


Famed dancer Rudolf Nureyev created his own version of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker ballet in 1967 for the Swedish Royal Ballet and it has become the one most widely performed in history.  This 2012 production for the Wiener Staatsballett delivers Nureyev’s 1985 revision for the Paris Ballet during his directorship.


At her family’s Christmas party, Clara (Liudmila Konovolova) receives a toy nutcracker from her godfather Drosselmeyer (Vladimir Shishov) who magically gets the dolls to dance for all assembled. When Clara’s brother Fritz breaks the nutcracker, Drosselmeyer gets it fixed.


Much later, Clara enters the empty room where the toys are arrayed, looking for her Nutcracker. Mice have taken over the room and the Nutcracker comes to life and leads a company of toy soliders to battle the mice and their King (Attila Bako/Martin Winter). Clara saves the Nutcracker from danger and he becomes a handsome Prince who takes her off to the Kingdom of Sweets. Once there, a revue of several national dances and the Sugar Plum Fairy entertain Clara.


But it is all a dream, as Clara finds out when she awakens after her dance with the Prince and is once again in her home with her family all of whom had taken part in her reverie.


Martin Legris, director of the Wiener Staatsballett and a former premier dancer and protégé of Nureyev, staged this production. The Wiener Staatsoper Orchestra is ably led by Paul Connelly.  Traditional balletomanes will surely love this production that recalls its original era.

Video Quality



The Nutcracker must look gorgeous and this one, under video director Michael Beyer’s knowing hand, gets all of the glamour shots. Colors and details are superb and coverage of the stage, pinpoint close ups of the dancers and the overall capture of the dancers’ moves are sensational.

Audio Quality



A very deep and atmospheric surround soundtrack is provided with good hall ambience and the occasional (and unavoidable) stage noise generated by the dancers.  The two-channel version is also quite nice.

Supplemental Materials



C Major gives us a program booklet with the usual credits, track listing, and background essay on this ballet and Rudolf Nureyev’s conceptions.

The Definitive Word




There are numerous Nutcrackers out there and having to pick and choose among them is becoming increasingly difficult. This new one has its share of great dancers with the nod going to the principals, Konovalova and Shishov, but their supporting colleagues turn in some mighty fine performances in the dances of the dream sequence. I am still a sucker for the original Petipa choreography that depends more on pure style and less on the gimmicks that we get here. However, virtually all of the currently available Blu-ray versions have someone’s updated choreography so this becomes a moot point. The present disc has plenty to offer and, if somewhat darker in tone than some of its predecessors (a consideration if young viewers are in mind), remains an effectively carried out stage work that will please most fans of this cherished ballet.

Additional Screen Captures

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