One of my favourite things to do every year during the Christmas season is see a production of The Nutcracker. It never fails to fully put me into the Christmas spirit!
I took my mom to see the National Ballet of Canada's production of The Nutcracker on Wednesday evening at the stunning Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in downtown Toronto. The permanent home to the Canadian Opera Company and National Ballet of Canada opened in 2006. This theatre is one of my favourite places in the world to see productions. The striking large window facade allows the glitz and glamour happening inside the soaring multi-level lobby to be seen from outdoors. Inside, the ceiling soars high with a striking glass staircase snaking its way across the different levels of the theatre. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, it was built specifically for opera and ballet performances with top acoustic sound quality.
The NBC's version of The Nutcracker was created in 1995 by the Ballet's former Artistic Director, James Kudelka. This production places an emphasis on imagination and seeing it through a child's eyes. It is fun, colourful, humorous at times (such as the daily local guest celebrity Cannon Dolls or the bears on skates and pointe shoes), and mesmerizing visually throughout through the skill of the dancers, stunning sets, and beautiful costumes. The orchestra is magnificent, filling the theatre with the familiar score and bringing the show to life even more. This year's show seemed to go back to the Russian roots of the story more than in recent years, which I really enjoyed.
There are some standout moments throughout the show. One of my favourites is the Snow Scene, where you are transported into a sparkling winter wonderland. The set is spectacular, and the glittering costumes sparkle across the stage. The Snow Queen was majestically performed by Principal Dancer, Elena Lobsanova, during the performance I saw, with her two male 'Icicles', who glide across the stage in a beautifully choreographed sequence. Whereas other productions in other cities around the world have performed this scene as a pas de deux between the Snow Queen and Snow King, I enjoyed this version with the Snow Queen commanding both the stage and her Icicles. I found that the corps de ballet performing as the Snow Maidens was a bit chaotic and not as precise in their formations and timings as they could be; however, the overall impact across the stage with the costumes, music, and outstanding performance by Elena was wonderful.
I was also very excited because the night I attended saw Principal Dancer, Heather Ogden, play the role of the Sugarplum Fairy. Watching her dance was a dream as she seemingly floats across the stage with grace, poise, strength, and so much control. Watching her emerge from the large Faberge egg reminded me of the ballerina from a children's musical jewelry box - just magical! The role of the Nutcracker for the evening was played by Principal Dancer, Guillaume Cote, who also happens to be Heather's real-life husband, so watching the pas de deux between the pair on stage made it even more stunning.
The Waltz of the Flowers is a confectionary delight with colourful pastel costumes floating and twirling around the stage. The one worry I had watching throughout the entire show was the regular 'snow' falling across the stage; beautiful for the audience, hazardous for the dancers. Indeed, one dancer during the Waltz of the Flowers took a tumble but recovered quickly and carried on like a professional.
The Nutcracker is sold out for this season; however, there are a few single tickets available for some performances, as well as a limited number of standing room tickets available for $12 at 11am on the day of the show in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office. It runs from December 9 - 30th, 2017. If you aren't able to see it this year, add to your list for next Christmas!