Last night I attended a Curzon Cinema screening of the Nutcracker. My verdict: a triumph. Clearly given the financial, geographical and social complexities of attending a performance at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, for many of us experiencing the event at our local cinema maybe our best option. From my experience last night I can say that watching a screening can be every bit as inspirational and life-enhancing as being there in person. I urge you to throw off any prejudices you may have and go along and experience for yourself the joys of the ballet on the big screen.
As an indication of how much the audience appreciated last night’s performance it is enough to report that they broke out into prolonged applause at all the high points. It was really very moving to feel the audience’s connection was so palpable that they wanted to show appreciation in that way. For me it confirmed my feeling that the cinema experience is real, is powerful and means just as much to the audience as any performance at Covent Garden. Moreover they waited for the curtain call and lapped up every second. It was extraordinarily moving.
The production we saw is the 2016 live recording of Peter Wright’s outstanding 1984 version. Everything about this production is so extraordinarily sumptuous that it makes complete sense for audiences to want to pay good money to see work of such quality. Clearly the resources that the Royal Opera House has at its disposal to put on The Nutcracker is way in excess of what even good regional houses can possibly hope to achieve. The sets, costumes and props are unmatched. The Christmas tree is surely the largest ever put on the London stage? The grandfather clock and owl are unforgettable. The setting for the Kingdom of Sweets has more gilding than the Palace of Versailles and the grand staircase gives Clara (Francesca Hayward, who is divine)and her soldier lover Hans Peter / The Nutcracker (Alexander Campbell, who is terrific) the perfect catwalk entree to the magical world of dance that awaits them.
The corps de ballet’s creation of the Forest of Snow Flakes is spellbinding, feet ‘flicker’, ‘flutter’ and ‘fly’ as they float majestically across the stage/snowy landscape. This alone is worth the price of entry. The climax of the ballet is of course the pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy (Lauren Cuthbertson, who is stunning) and her a Prince (Federico Bonelli, who is gorgeous). If this doesn’t send tingles down your spine nothing will. One of the great highlights of Western civilisation. Tchaikovsky’s music is simply enchanting. An unforgettable ballet at a cinema near you, what are you waiting for? Christmas?
Review by John O’Brien