It comes down to the passion of all involved: beyond the 4th wall of the theatre and the 5th of the global screens, nothing can dull the Christmas spirit and the heavenly dancing that communicates it.
Act 1 begins in the Stahlbaum family’s Christmas Eve party (meticulous Biedermeier designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman), where most characters are introduced. Young Clara (danced by Anna Rose O'Sullivan) is the protagonist that carries the story from the bourgeois 19th century German living room of Act 1 to the dreamy Kingdom of the Sweets of Act 2, controlled by the ever present Herr Drosselmeyer (the slick Gary Avis).
The Royal Ballet, The Nutcracker, Gary Avis as Drosselmeyer (c) ROH 2013 Bill Cooper
A spell cast by the evil Mouse King has turned Drosselmeyer’s nephew into a Nutcracker doll; he can only be freed when he's found true love.
Clara, by now enraptured by her Nutcracker doll, a cunning present from Drosselmeyer, falls into a dream where magic happens: before our very eyes the family Christmas tree grows, seemingly for an eternity, encouraged by Tchaikovsky's lush score. One feels one might combust with emotion.
The sustained musical crescendo ends with dazzling gold dust falling from the skies. The scene is set for the magical trip, but not before the children turn into toy soldiers for a fierce battle against dastardly rats.
Post-battle the Nutcracker doll transforms into the flesh-and-blood Nephew, Hans-Peter (Marcelino Sambé), and what a transformation!
The Royal Ballet, Marcelino Sambé as The Nutcracker, Anna Rose O'Sullivan as Clara (c) ROH 2018 Alastair Muir
Sambé is handsome, passionate and attentive – no wonder the hypnotically expressive O'Sullivan becomes even more so during their first pas de deux. They are a dream couple. And the effervescent Snowflakes close Act 1 with not a hint of sludge in sight.
As Act 2 starts it's immediately evident who's in charge: Marianela Nuñez is no ordinary Sugar Plum Fairy: she's totally in command, taking exquisite pleasure in every move. Always by her side is her cavalier, Vadim Muntagirov, with his radiant smile and Apollonian proportions.
The divertissements come thick and fast, with Melissa Hamilton very sensual in the Arabian pas de quatre; and the corps led by Fumi Kaneko gliding with grace and ease through Wright's demanding choreography in the Waltz of the Flowers.
With such a cast, the climactic Grand Pas comes with insuperable classicism. Nuñez is control personified, Muntagirov’s technique the stuff of dreams. Both hold their global audience with respect and continuous charm.
As my evening viewing at a London cinema drew to a close, I realised the cinema offers a more heightened experience than the theatre itself. The cameras allow us to see so much more than just expressive bodies – we actually see the individuals. We close in on their eyes, which is almost impossible even from the best seats in the house.
The Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker is an amazing company effort, but in this cast the night belongs to Anna Rose O’Sullivan. As Clara she's truly exquisite. Her belief communicates itself through movement you can't ignore, a celebration of what classical ballet can do when in the right hands.
A very merry Christmas indeed!
Age Guidance: 5+
Live performances are now fully sold out (returns only), but there's another chance to see the cinema relay in cinemas countrywide on Sunday, 9 Dec, afternoon
|What||The Royal Ballet, The Nutcracker Cinema Relay Review|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
03 Dec 18 – 15 Jan 19, 19:30 Dur.: 2 hours 20 mins incl 1 interval. Some evening early starts at 19:00, mats times vary.
|Website||Click here to book via the ROH website|