The Nutcracker is the Teatro dellOperas Christmas offering for the Rome public; it is a traditional production and very appetizing. The scale is grand, with large numbers of dancers, beautiful and imaginative costumes and a general air of all the stops being pulled out.

The ballet was first performed in 1892 at the Marijinsky Theatre, and was a collaboration between the Marius Petipa, the French dancer turned choreographer who was one of the leading figures in Russian ballet in the last four decades of the 19th century, and Tchaikovsky. Its appeal lies in both the music, full of those tuneful melodies with a strong emotional vein, fine harmonies and striking orchestration for which Tchaikovsky is so loved, and the plot, which can be taken superficially either as just an enchanting fairy-tale, or as something deeper and more disturbing, the passage of a young girl from childhood to adolescence.

Sets, by Luisa Spinatelli, are handsome with dominant colours in ice blue and white, conveying winter, Christmas and sugar icing and a certain dreaminess. She is also responsible for the costumes, mostly in pastels.

Jean-Yves Lormeau, the French dancer and teacher, has drawn on Petipa for the choreography. All attractive and no shocks.

Dieter Rossberg conducted the Opera House orchestra with great sensitivity. The overall production was by Beppe Menegatti.

Special mention must be made of the grandmother, who is normally a marginal character, but here inflated into a much larger and almost ever-present figure specifically for the great Carla Fracci. She dances on a number of occasions, moving with all that refined grace and nobility she is so well known for, allied to an extraordinary sweetness displayed in her affection for the little girl.

The audience loved it, frequently bursting out in rapturous clapping; the final curtain calls continued for 15 minutes.

Teatro dellOpera di Roma, Piazza Beniamino Gigli 1, Rome

Tel. 06 481601

14 December 2005

Further performances 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22 and 23 December 2005.