December 18: The Nutcracker

NutcrackerOn this day in 1892, St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre hosted a double premier of two new works by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: an opera called Iolanta and a holiday themed ballet called Shchelkunchik, Balet-feyeriya or  The Nutcracker, Ballet extravaganza.

Of course, The Nutcracker is now a Christmastime staple, and nearly everyone knows the tale of the girl named Clara and her nutcracker that transformed into a prince. However, when the ballet premiered it wasn’t exactly a hit. The ballet received what can best be described as mixed reviews. Some critics liked it, while others completely hated it. The most common complaints were regarding the inclusion of children in prominent roles and that Antonietta Dell’Era (the prima ballerina who created the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, seen at left in costume) did not dance until the end of the second act. Other critics found the opening party scene too mundane and that the transition from the real world to the world of fantasy was too abrupt.

However, Tchaikovsky’s score was generally well received. So, the composer took 21 minutes worth of music from the ballet and turned it into a suite. The suite was popular and kept The Nutcracker within the public’s mind and over time the ballet was better appreciated. Several well received productions were performed in America during the 1940s and 1950s and the acclaim given to the New York City Ballet’s 1954 performance of George Balanchine’s staging of The Nutcracker inspired many other ballet companies to stage their own productions, turning the ballet into a holiday tradition.

Of course there’s a cocktail called The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker’s a sweet little cocktail that cleverly uses vodka (for the ballet’s Russian origins) and two different nut flavored liqueurs. Consider this the first of several wintery libations that we’re giving you this week for your last minute Christmas parties.

The Nutcracker

  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 1 ounce Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Bailey’s Irish Liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce Amaretto
  • 1/2 ounce Frangelico
  • 1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and pour into a pint glass.

Tomorrow: Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

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