Exhibition announcement : The Nutcracker – A Magnificent Christmas Tale

In more than one hundred and twenty years of Nutcracker’s performance, the ballet’s fame does not wane, and the Nutcracker has become a must on the Christmas repertoire of all major theatres. This most performed ballet in the world was originally created according to a story by German writer E.T.A. Hoffman, and was adapted for a libretto by Marius Petipa from the text of Alexandre Dumas the elder.

The story of a little girl Clara that gets inspired by a gift – a Nutcracker doll, and with it passes through spectacular adventures with the guidance of the mysterious uncle Drosselmeyer – is a timeless Christmas classic. Its uniqueness lies in the journey into the mythical, fantastic, unexpected, and at times a bit scary, transferred to the ballet stage with fantastic music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and original choreography of Lev Ivanov.

The beginning of the Nutcracker was difficult as the ballet received harsh criticism that it is adapted to masses, stylistically unconnected, and that it emphasizes dazzle performance more than its artistic reach. However, the audience enthusiastically embraced the spectacular Nutcracker, because of its fairy-tale and closeness to all generations, as well as rich costumes and set design, customized to traditionally most festive and most colourful part of the year.

Therefore the Museum of Arts and Crafts on 27th November, as the finale of this year’s exhibition season, organizes a brilliant exhibition The Nutcracker – A Magnificent Christmas Tale. Fairytale setting by Saša Šekoranja with an impressive tree, dramatic entry and a sense of wandering through the fantastic world of dreams with Clara and her Nutcracker brings the story close to all visitors and perfectly conveys the Christmas atmosphere.

The uniqueness of this exhibition is achieved through collaborations, as well as the fact that this is the first comprehensive exhibition of this ballet and the story of Nutcracker ever installed in the world. As such, this exhibition is an inevitable point of Advent in Zagreb, with a unique offer that places the Museum of Arts and Crafts in the center of cultural events of this season.

Furthermore, costumes and scenery papers from the Mariinsky Theatre premiere of The Nutcracker in 1892, in the ownership of the State Museum of St. Petersburg for Theatre and Music, will be presented outside of Russia’s borders for the first time. The costumes in this way gain a new audience and, accompanied with music by Tchaikovsky, evoke the most famous scenes such as the beautiful pas de deux of the cavaliers and the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Arabian Dance or the Mice Battle…

The Staatsballett loan from Berlin, more specifically from their production of The Nutcracker set in 2013 signed by Vasily Medvedev and Yuri Burlaka, two Russian choreographers and top connoisseurs of the ballet tradition, is especially interesting because it represents a version of The Nutcracker based on historical scenographic solutions and original choreography from 1892, modelled according to historical templates, costumes and set design directly evoke memories of the premiere and reconstruct the traditional Nutcracker in modern times. The Berlin production of The Nutcracker offers to its visitors a close up to show a beautiful work of three female costumes, two mice masks and the most interesting mask of the Mouse King.

Teatro alla Scala, one of the most resonant ballet company names in the world, is a partner of the exhibition. Season 1967/68 of the Teatro alla Scala is special in that the great ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev also appears in the role of the choreographer. Among the seven archival costumes one particularly spectacular is the costume of wizard Drosselmeyer which was worn by Nureyev himself. It is a rare example of a costume that was not bought for Nureyev’s private collection and as such is of particular interest to visitors and lovers of ballet worldwide.

The exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Crafts will show a selection from the costume collection of Belinda Wright, an Englishwoman and prima donna of the English National Ballet (formerly the London Festival Ballet), owned by her dance and life partner – Croat Jelko Yuresha. Wright and Yuresha met during ballet rehearsals for a special performance in Manchester for Queen Elizabeth in 1959. After 1962, and the departure of Belinda Wright from the London Festival Ballet, they performed together all over the world, often buying their costumes and creating an impressive collection that is now called “The Wright Time” within the Yuresha collection. Therefore, for this exhibition the museum loaned five costumes. The first one is the Sugar Plum Fairy costume that was specifically made for Belinda Wright in blue, instead of the traditional pink. The last time she danced in this costume was for The London Festival Ballet Nutcracker performance in 1961. The Flake costume that Belinda Wright wore at the famous Teatro La Fenice in Venice in 1970 was designed by Yuresha, as well as the corresponding male costume, which he wore at the same production. The last pair of costumes is the male and female Chocolate costumes with gorgeous details in pink. Belinda Wright performed for the last time in 1977 in Tokyo. Jelko Yuresha now lives in Zürich and is engaged in teaching ballet.

Undeniably, the exhibition would not be complete without the historical accounts of the Nutcracker on the stage of the Croatian National Theatre. Margareta Froman in 1923 made settings for several scenes from The Nutcracker, and in 1931, as the director and choreographer, with scenography and costume design by Pavel Froman and conductor Krešimir Baranović, set the integrated work of The Nutcracker, in which she starred as the Sugar Plum Fairy. World-famous ballerina Margareta Froman, after Zagreb’s success, set the first Nutcracker at the Milan’s Scala in 1938.

Zagreb’s Nutcracker continues in the 1970s with the original libretto of choreographer Waczlaw Orykowsky. This choreography was restored in 2004, and the latest 2011 version is the vision of choreographer Derek Deane and costume designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno.

Cooperation with the National Theatre as part of Advent in Zagreb is a unique opportunity for local and international visitors to experience on a single city square the magic of The Nutcracker, with its history and story, and a contemporary interpretation of ballet.

Vesna Ledić, project leader and author of the preliminary concept; Arijana Koprčina, author and curator of the exhibition