The ballet season at St David’s Hall started off well with Coppélia two nights prior. The Russian State Ballet of Siberia have been a feature of the Christmas season in Cardiff for years now. They don’t seem to be going anywhere and they are always welcome at this hectic period.
Their Nutcracker is perhaps their finest work and Christmas is not the same without it (the Cinderella they do now and then is another firm favourite). The gaudy nature of this Nutcracker (the video work leaves me fairly queasy) works well for the story by E. T. A. Hoffman, filled with the snug, dreamy nature of Christmas Eve with mice and exotic dances. All that’s missing is the smell of the pine tree and sugar almonds. This is truly a dance lovers show and even the hardest of hearts are melted by this wonderful ballet which lifts the spirits and makes you not feel like Scrooge anymore.
We see Marie, our protagonist be gifted with her Nutcracker doll, a toy rejected by the other children. Through an extensive dream sequence (essentially most of the ballet), she ventures to a land of make-believe where her beloved toy comes to life, defending her from the clutches of the evil Mouse King. That’s pretty much it as the story goes, though no one really goes to the ballet to marvel at the actual storylines. The grace of these dancers is unbounded. True poetry in motion, stirring encounter after siting encounter.
The glory of Tchaikovsky’s music burns bright with some of his most famous pieces, here brought with glee by the Russian State Ballet Orchestra. Maestro Anatoliy Chepurnoy brimming with energy, attentive to the musicians needs. His encouraging of more applause for himself and the two lead dancers has become a familiar occurrence every season. Anna Fedosova as Marie and Yury Kudryavtsev as the Nutcracker Prince make the show their own, their duets in both acts remain teary highlights. They are simply a marvel to behold. Denis Pogorelyy playing the masked, doppelgänger Nutcracker doll also brought energy and vitality in this battle sequence with the Mouse King.
Said King is here tackled by Egor Osokin, a devilish role, complemented well by his scheming mouse minions. The role of Drosselmeyer (Marie’s Godfather), is here taken by Alexander Kuimov, a grandiose, camp role that bridges the gap between the real world and the dream sequences, regal in every swish of his cape. The debate about who should the performing the famous solo dances of international regard appears to have been forgotten within this company. Saying this, the Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Chinese and French dances are executed with stupendous aplomb and breakneck speed (a minor trip by one dancer was expected with the busy motion of it all). Truly a series of delights which never wains.
Like all good things, they must come to an end. Marie wakes from her slumber, realising it was all a dream. We too awake from this fantasy as the curtain closes, Marie clutching her Nutcracker with a stylised pose. Glorious.
The Nutcracker continues at St David’s Hall until Christmas Eve 2019, with performances of Swan Lake until New Year’s Eve 2019.