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Boston Ballet performs ‘The Nutcracker’ through Saturday, Dec. 31

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Boston Ballet performs ‘The Nutcracker’ through Saturday, Dec. 31
Delia Wada-Gill and Paul Craig in Mikko Nissinen’s “The Nutcracker.” (Photo: Photo: Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet)

Through Dec. 31, the Boston Ballet is performing Mikko Nissinen’s renowned rendition of “The Nutcracker.” The famed ballet, originally performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1892, has been shaped and updated over time to create the magical, humorous childhood fairytale performed at the Boston Opera House.

The coming-of-age story is told through the eyes of young Clara, who is transported into a fantasy world where she’s exposed to new places and experiences and begins to understand romantic love. Because her journey is an imaginative one, everything is skewed through the lens of naiveté and inexperience. When the Nutcracker Prince comes to life, he leads an army of soldiers in battle against a slew of giant rats. For a young girl in the 19th century, rats and soldiers would have been two known quantities of evil and good.

Sayre Powell played an innocent and lovable Clara, and Boris Richir portrayed a Drosselmeier who was at once comedic, caring and a little ominous. The set design by Robert Perdziola created a beautiful escape from the dreary Boston snowscape. Most notably, as Clara and the Nutcracker Prince enter his kingdom, they float down into a heavenly set of clouds and gilded gates. The result is a dreamlike, painterly world with all the elegance and cheek of a Fragonard painting.

Timeless beauty

“The Nutcracker,” as a ballet adaptation of the Prussian novel, was introduced to England in 1934 and the United States in 1944 and, with significant changes to Westernize the story, became a wildly popular holiday tradition. The original Russian ballet was set in Moscow and utilized many famous characters from Russian folklore. Masha (Clara) was the center of an elaborate, fantastical reverie. Where the Boston Ballet version adds a heavy dose of wink-and-nod humor, the original was heavy on the drama. Contemporary versions of the show do preserve Tchaikovsky’s iconic score.

There’s little room for innovation in the famed “Nutcracker Suite” and the performance, conducted by Genevieve Leclair, though technically precise, felt routine rather than enthusiastic. Recurring favorites, Mother Ginger and Bear, both played by Alexander Maryianowski, brought both a sophisticated comedy for the adults and playfulness for the children.

This is the fifth year of the performance under the choreographic direction of Nissinen and the production still finds ways to keep a classic story fresh. The talented cast again and again brings the magic of ballet and the holiday spirit alive in a fantastical world of tulle, royalty and a very stubborn dancing bear.