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Classical Ballet Sergei Slonimsky "The Magic Nut" (ballet in two acts)
World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera - established 1783

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes

The performance has 1 intermission

Schedule for Sergei Slonimsky "The Magic Nut" (ballet in two acts) 2022

Lighting Designer: Vladimir Lukasevich
Set Designer: Mihail Chemiakin
Composer: Sergei Slonimsky
Costume Designer: Mihail Chemiakin
Production design: Mihail Chemiakin
Choreography: Donvena Pandoursky

Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra

Classical Ballet in 2 act

Premiere of this production: 14 May 2005, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg

Libretto: Mihail Chemiakin after E. T. A. Hoffmann’s tale Nutcracker and Mous King

World premiere: 14 May, 2005, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg

Two-act ballet The Magic Nut to music by Sergei Slonimsky. The libretto, sets, costumes and staging are by Mihail Chemiakin (2005) and the choreography by Donvena Pandoursky (2005).

The ballet forms an unusual "prehistory" to The Nutcracker, together comprising "Chemiakin’s Hoffman". The libretto for The Magic Nut is based on the story of the transformation of Drosselmeyer’s nephew, who enchanted Princess Pirlipat, into the Nutcracker.

Mihail Chemiakin: This is the story of the magical Crackatook nut, Princess Pirlipat and a young man, Herr Drosselmeyer’s enchanted nephew. In Hoffman’s Nutcracker tale, Herr Drosselmeyer tells the heroine Marie (Masha) this story while she is recuperating from the attack of the Rat King and his subjects. The idea of staging the whole Hoffman tale, including the story of Pirlipat and the magic nut, first arose about thirty years after the first production of The Nutcracker, when choreographer Fyodor Lopukhov commissioned Shostakovich to write the music. Unfortunately it was right after the composer was savaged by the press for his music for the ballets Bolt and The Limpid Stream, and Shostakovich backed away from ballet scores.

Many choreographers have attempted to tell the story of the Nutcracker’s origins, because without this the ballet’s plot is not quite clear. Some have had Drosselmeyer put on a puppet show, which is utterly incomprehensible to the audience; Lopukhov had the Nutcracker approach the audience and tell his story in words. Others have inserted the story of the hard nut and Princess Pirlipat in the beginning of Act II. But I decided to return to Lopukhov’s original idea – the creation of new music and finally a whole new ballet for the story of the hard nut, as this plot is complex and demands separate treatment.

In The Magic Nut the audience will observe the transformation of young Drosselmeyer into a Nutcracker. His relationship to the rats will be clearer – the audience will see that once upon a time everyone – rats, birds, people – lived together peacefully, until they fell out because the rats ate all the lard in the King’s sausages (in my version they steal the sausages whole). This quarrel leads to a series of events that reveal young Drosselmeyer’s (the future Nutcracker’s) kind heart, and how he nearly became a member of the royal family by breaking the spell on Princess Pirlipat, but then was himself turned into a Nutcracker by the rats.

The relationship between the Nutcracker and Herr Drosselmeyer is also clarified. After all, on the one hand the uncle got his nephew into a most unpleasant predicament, but on the other hand only Herr Drosselmeyer knows how to break the rats’ evil spells.

I hope that the audience will feel sympathy for the kind and unhappy youth and will follow his story in Tchaikovsky’s ballet with increased interest and understanding.

Sergei Slonimsky:

E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Tales amaze the reader with the expression of the mighty conflict between nobility and venality, idealism and cynicism, the spiritual potency of good and the villainous malice of the rat underworld. These themes are present in his tale, Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Hoffmann’s Serapion Brothers were the model for a literary circle in 1920s Petrograd. Among the members of the circle were Zoschenko, Lev Lunets, and my father, Mikhail Slonimsky. Thus it was with great interest and pleasure that I worked on the musical score for Chemiakin’s new Hoffmann ballet. Worthiness Punished is the theme of A Tale of a Hard Nut, in which Herr Drosselmeyer in Nutcracker and the Mouse King tells the story of the Nutcracker. Here Drosselmeyer’s magnanimous nephew, who has saved Pirlipat from eternal ugliness, is rejected and given up to the rats’ curse. In his libretto Chemiakin emphasized the noble, chivalrous motives of the young man, who loves Pirlipat when she is a pathetic, ugly monster. Not under threat of execution by the capricious King, but out of feelings of empathy and self-sacrifice, the future Prince saves the young Princess. But Pirlipat is no Masha! She turns out to be ungrateful, with a weakness for appearances and power, utterly incapable of rising to self-sacrifice and fidelity in love. And the noble youth remains in the hands of the rats, who have turned the hero into a silly and helpless Nutcracker and celebrate their victory in an orgy of malice. All the guests, the King and the princess herself laugh at him, drive him out and leave him in bitter isolation. How often this sort of thing happens in real life, to us, to our friends and families! The Hoffmann tale remains utterly contemporary, however essentially sad that might be…
Chemiakin’s choreographic libretto seized me with the same depth of thought and unlimited breadth of imagination that are characteristic of his version of The Nutcracker. And I happily agreed to compose music for the one-act ballet, worked with enthusiasm, with unflailing inspiration. I did not use any of Tchaikovsky’s peerless melodies, for that would have been pretentious. Rather, I composed the musical themes myself, keeping in mind several groups of sound images. The melodic leitmotifs of the orchestra represent the world of people, of their kind feelings, of sadness and joy, loneliness and love. Various characters of the story are presented in episodes of the orchestration. The organ represents the magic of the kind sorcerer Drosselmeyer. And the purely contemporary insertion of unusual electronic music portrays the evil magic of Krysilda and her rat army. The residents of the Rat kingdom also dance to the sounds and rhythms of "mini-music" and "retro" music, so popular today, parodied as Cervantes parodied the popular chivalrous novels of his time in Don Quixote. Now I am eager to see the new choreography for our ballet by the talented Donvena Pandoursky and the marvelous artists of the Mariinsky Ballet, and the sets and costumes for the the ballet’s new scenes. Has the composer managed to create in the beginning of the Twenty-First century a serious symphonic score worthy of librettist-designer-artist Mihail Chemiakin’s Hoffmaniana’ That, of course, is up to the audience to determine.

Donvena Pandoursky:

Magic is a secret and although we can never explain how it happens, we can at least find out why it happens. For me, all the work related to the creation of The Magic Nut ballet was magic. E. T. A. Hoffman, Mihail Chemiakin, Sergei Slonimsky, Valery Gergiev, the Mariinsky Theatre – all these names taken together already made the magical mixture of which the new fairy-tale ballet was to be born.

Invited as choreographer, my task was to tell this fairy tale on the stage, in a modern, comprehensible, but also magical language – a tale that would touch the hearts and minds of present-day children and adults. Before my eyes I had, on the one hand, Chemiakin’s interesting libretto and his fantastic designs for the sets, costumes and masks, which compelled me to search for the kind of plasticity that would allow them to come to life naturally on the stage, preserving their Chemiakin spirit. On the other hand – the serious modern symphonic music of Slonimsky and the highly professional ballet troupe of the Mariinsky Theatre.

From the onset, I did not think so much of how to stage the ballet but rather, what was it essentially about. Then, drinking big gulps from the magical mixture which fate so graciously offered me, I gradually began to uncover the answer. It was hidden between the different layers of the ballet, the funny and the sad, the grotesque and the romantic. It was Hoffman-Chemiakin, or perhaps even Drosselmeyer, who had to take the viewer by the hand, like little Masha from the fairy tale, and start the journey in the strange world of the eternal struggle between good and evil. The answer also lay in Drosselmeyer’s nephew, ready to pass through trial and sacrifice in order to save the ungrateful Princess Pirlipat. Ridiculed and severely punished for his noble character, suffering, he turns to us with his arms open wide and passes to us, in a magical way, his faith in goodness against all odds. To me, this is what lies hidden in the magic nut: the inextinguishable desire to do good, even when life turns its back on us. I would be happy if our ballet succeeds in enchanting the audiences and planting in their hearts a grain of Hoffman’s and Chemiakin’s magic world.

Schedule for Sergei Slonimsky "The Magic Nut" (ballet in two acts) 2022

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