December 10, 2012

20,000 Vinyl LPs 15: The Nutcracker & Joyous Tidings

The Nutcracker
tasseled book-bound vinyl LP album

photo by Styrous®

At this time of year, beside Santa, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, Jesus, Mary & Joseph, one of the great holiday traditions is The Nutcracker ballet. Every little kid thrills at the sight of the tree growing (or Clara shrinking, depending on your point of view) in the first act. Through the magic of clever staging, lighting, incredibly dramatic but exquisitely beautiful ascending modulating music I still get goose-bumps when I see it happening. Watch it in action on YouTube.

I saw my first performance of the Nutcracker in 1962, performed by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the San Francisco Opera House. It featured George Zorich. Zorich has been quoted as once saying, “Dance should live; if it doesn’t come from the heart, it is not dancing.” I had been dancing for four years by then and was about to dance in a production of the Nutcracker. I absorbed every move he made.

(click on any image to see larger size)
photo by Styrous®                                             George Zoritch 
                                                                 April 11, 1942
                                                                                photo by Carl Van Vechten

The Nutcracker was in the Ballet Russe repertoire for almost the entirety of the company's existence, from 1940 to 1962, except in 1953 when it was not performed. I saw one of the last performances of it by the company. There is actually a DVD of the performance at the Chicago Public Library. It was originally filmed in 16 mm by Ann Barzel. She was 101 years old when she died as documented in the New York Times.

The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It was first performed on December 18th of 1892 at the Maryinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia, with decor by Botcharov.

Marius Petipa                                      Lev Ivanov
(1818-1910)                                       (1834–1901)
                                                                                             photographer unknown

(1840-1893)
photographer unknown

The libretto is from an adaptation (The Tale of the Nutcracker) by Alexandre Dumas, père of the E.T.A. Hoffmann story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" written in 1816.

Alexandre Dumas, père                             E.T.A. Hoffmann
November, 1855                                                                                         .
photo by Nadar                                                                                                             .

Hoffmann is the subject and hero of the opera, The Tales of Hoffmann, by Jacques Offenbach.

photographer unknown


Early images of the Nutcracker


original costume sketch
for The Nutcracker ca. 1890


Photo of Stanislava Belinskaya as Clara (left), 
an unknown performer (center), & 
Vassily Stulkolin as Fritz (right) 
in the Imperial Ballet's original production of
Circa December, 1892
Scanned from the book 
"The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov" 
St. Petersburg, Russian Empire


Konstantin Ivanov's original sketch 
for the set of The Nutcracker (1892)


Photographic postcard of the ballerina 
Olga Preobrajenskaya (1871-1962) 
as the Sugarplum Fairy & 
the danseur Nikolai Legat (1869-1937) 
as Prince Coqueluche in the
original production of "The Nutcracker" 
(The Kirov Ballet under Soviet rule,
now the Mariinsky Ballet)
Circa 1900
Unknown photographer of the photography
 department of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre 
St. Petersburg, Russian Empire.


Ivan Vsevolozhsky's original costume designs for 
Mother Gigogne and her Polichinelle children.
circa 1892

Some critics called The Nutcracker "astonishingly rich in inspiration" and "from beginning to end, beautiful, melodious, original, and characteristic." But some critics found the party scene "ponderous" and the Grand Pas de Deux "insipid" (You can't please everyone).

Many recordings have been made since 1909 of the Nutcracker Suite (also see: Nutcracker Suite), which made its initial appearance on disc that year in what is now historically considered the first record album. Antal Doráti was especially well known for his recordings of Tchaikovsky's music.

photographer unknown

Doráti was the first conductor to record the complete performances of all three of Tchaikovsky's ballets - Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. The albums were recorded in mono in 1954, for Mercury Records, with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. All three ballets were first issued separately, but later re-issued in a 6-LP set.

The photos below are of the first complete recording of the ballet issued in 1954, in mono, of course, with the red bookmark cord and tassel. I have loved looking at it all these years. It featured an elaborate and beautifully bound book with liner notes/descriptions of the story, the history of the Ballet and the recording of the ballet by Clair Van Ausdall; it has delicate line illustrations by Dorothy Maas and the cover design was by George Maas.


All photos of the Antal Dorati/Nutcracker album by Styrous®

(click on any image to see larger size)














So, in closing, this is my way of wishing you all the best of the holiday season. Here's hoping happiness and love find you well and hit you up one good. All the best in the brand new year ahead of us.

And don't forget, dance brightly on.


The entire collection is for sale. Interested? Contact Styrous®


Styrous® ~ December 10, 2012
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