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Review: The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House

My Christmas started all the way back almost two weeks ago on the 1st December when I went carol singing in our next village with some of the mums from the local school. This is an annual event, marked by the lighting up of the village Christmas tree.

Traditionally, this has been a huge pine tree on the village green, decorated top to bottom with lights and hung with wrapped cardboard boxes to represent presents. However last year the tree developed sickness and had to be felled. So this year’s tree was the deciduous tree next to it, with a string of lights through it:


Incidentally, my friend James went out on the same night, on a different continent, and with a better camera, and got this rather wonderful shot:

Despite the lo-fi lights, our village event was marked by lots of good cheer and excitement about our next singing event, set for the following Thursday.  This was to be held in our local town, where we had been asked to provide some singers as part of the annual late night Christmas shopping event organised by the town.

I was still able to sing, although I was starting to come down with a heavy cold which eventually felled me over the last weekend (no morning run for me :-() and lingered on through the week.  It’s hardly a major illness in the grand scale of things, but it did make cough a lot and unfortunately I was still coughing like a blocked drain on Thursday when we went to see The Royal Opera House’s The Nutcracker as it was beamed live across to local cinemas.

It seems a bit odd to be doing a review of The Nutcracker. Although we’ve never seen it before, it just seems to me one of those traditional things you do to be Christmassy, rather than an artistic endeavour. It was very sweet and sugary, and I’m not that into sweet and sugary (apart from when it is in a drink). The set was lovely, especially the giant Christmas tree and the snow scene, and the dancing was exquisite, especially the solos in the second half – really astonishingly fast. One of the benefits of seeing ballet at the cinema is that there is a very short but insightful accompanying film and introduction, during which the presenter, Darcy Bussell, had revealed just how exhausting the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy is, how difficult it is to manufacture all that apparently effortless confection and light.

It did seem a little bit light on story though, which the Lovely Daughters commented on. Overall however the performance elicited the standard commentary, which was “It was good.”

I know the story is quite a simple one and its function is essentially that of a seasonal crowd pleaser, but I thought comment from GoodKnowsBetter at the bottom of this Guardian review added an extra dimension regarding what else the production could have included.

I’d love to include a picture of the Royal Opera House’s Christmas tree but instead, here is a picture of mine.


More on Tree anon.



  1. I went to see the Nutcracker too – but a different production to yours – it was the English National Youth Ballet’s Christmas performance and I had tickets because one of my nieces was performing. It was lovely – very Christmassy, but I agree – in our sophisticated times the storyline lacks a little punch.

    • Another talented niece!! Wow!

      I did find the end unexpectedly moving. But I do find that theme always moves me – thinking that someone has gone and finding that they have returned.

      I think as with all those fairy tales that go back to more basic times, when death was that much closer, there are some dark themes lurking there. But they weren’t picked up on, eg the killing of King Rat was faintly ludicrous, when it could have been much more dramatic.

  2. Thanks for the kind words on my Christmas photo! It was rather odd – nothing seemed particularly Christmassy in Colorado apart from that one person’s (absolutely massive) garden.

    It’s years since I last saw the Nutcracker. I managed to for the last couple of years I was in London, although the final time (concussed after falling off my bike) was less memorable than the rest. Probably that tells us we shouldn’t attend the ballet while suffering from head trauma, rather than anything about the production itself.

  3. Oh no, I hate to read about your magnificent village pine tree being felled, it makes me heartsick to know that, how sad that it got an awful disease. I love trees (but I’m not a tree-hugger, in case you were wondering!!!)

    Your friend’s photo of the trees in Colorado is amazing!

    I love singing carols outside but haven’t done so for many years. So sorry to hear of your cold and hope you get better soon. One year I came down with the full-blown flu on Christmas Eve and had the whole family coming. I spent all Christmas on the sofa but everyone rallied. Luckily I had everything organised. I’ve only had flu twice and that was one of them!!!!

    I took Aspie daughter to see The Nutcracker when she was about 8 years old when we lived in CA and she loved it, as she does all live productions. It was indeed very Chrismassy but as you say, light on the story, ideal for my then young daughter though!

    Love your tree, hope your Christmas preparations are going well, I’m getting there, slowly… 😉

    • I watched AI this evening and by the end I was much recovered! It’s very good, isn’t it? I’m going to do a review on it next week as have lots to say about it. It was funny how it was a mix of extreme, quite adult themed, Sci-fi but coming back to that soft human Spielberg core at the end. Very sad, but fairy tale like too.

  4. The Nutcracker is amazing, I went to see it one Christmas with two of my best friends and it was such a magical experience. I would recommend it to anyone.

    Hope you’re all better now. It took us 10 days all up to recover from our bugs!! Wrap up warm 🙂

    • I’ve been getting better through the day, which is amazing. Was feeling very mopey this morning – it’s the lack of energy gets me down. Yes it’s been about 10 days for me as well.

  5. I’m really jealous to hear about your carol singing. We sang today at a Christmas activity thing I took the children too and I was thinking at the time how much I loved singing with lots of other people also singing. As soon as I’m settled somewhere in a forever home, I’m going to join a choir.

    • We are so lucky that a lovely mum from the village with the deciduous tree has printed out the music and organised us into parts and rehearsals. We never had that before she came along. It makes a real difference. As you say the fact that *all* of us are there with the same goal, of enjoying ourselves and making music together, is really amazing.

      • Thanks so much for showing me that link, Denise. It makes me feel so sad to see what Christchurch looks like today. I loved living there but I will never go back. Not now.

        If you’re interested in seeing more of what it’s like, here’s a short clip of some of the inner city streets as filmed from a car driving down them. The reporter then cross-matches the streets with the google street view photos from before the earthquake. The footage was taken a year ago.

  6. Living in Europe and the US, Christmas was sometimes too much for me. But now that I live in a Muslim country, I love Christmassy! Christmas carols and nutcracker sound just perfect 😉

    • Yes, I think that is a good point. Sometimes we get bombarded with it too much. I guess the trick is to filter out the bits we don’t need and appreciate those that we do.

  7. Well that all sounds very Christmassy! I’ve never seen The Nutcracker, though I’d like to one day. We used to have carols sung on our village green every year until last year when it poured with rain and everyone got soaked. Now they’ve moved it indoors to one of the schools. It seems amazing to me that that had never happened before? Or no one had considered it might happen? Well anyhow. Lovely tree! Ours is outside in a bucket of water still, in the vain hope it won’t be bald by New Year’s Eve.

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