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Gene Schiavone

Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio leap simultaneously in Boston Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker.

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The Nutcracker

Boston Ballet

Artistic Director and Choreographer Mikko Nissinen

Through Dec. 29

Boston Opera House

Boston Opera House was glowing with holiday spirit as attendees eagerly squeezed into the ornate, lavish venue for a sold-out opening night of Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is an extravagant, breath-taking production featuring eye-popping set changes, immaculately designed costumes, and energetic, striking choreography that takes the audience on an enchanting journey. Throughout the ballet, audiences alternated between erupting in laughter and breaking out in thunderous applause.

Set in the early 1880s by Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen and Robert Perdziola, the new production features 350 costumes in all, exquisitely handmade and custom painted to match the gorgeous set designs. Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker is based on the libretto by Alexandre Dumas père titled The Tale of the Nutcracker, which is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Brought to life by talented, charismatic dancers and P.I. Tchaikovsky’s famous score performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra, the performance was decidedly delightful and magical. In Nissinen’s words, “I couldn’t be more thrilled with the new production. It’s a sensational journey for those experiencing it for the first time, and for those who have been coming to The Nutcracker for generations.”

The story unfolds with Drosselmeier’s performance in a Children’s Theater where he is seen putting on the final touches to the Nutcracker before he hurries to join the Silberhaus’ Christmas party. Bursting into the Christmas party, Drosselmeier begins setting the ballet on its whimsical path as he entertains the children with magic tricks, including unwrapping two life-size dolls. The Harlequin and Columbine toys immaculately balance elegant pirouettes with convincingly jerky wind-up doll movements, eliciting whoops of delight from the audience.

After a series of cheery dances, including the memorably charming grandparents’ dance, young Clara receives a nutcracker as a gift during the Christmas Eve party. As the party disperses and night falls, the jaw-droppingly beautiful Christmas Tree emerges. Its dazzlingly colorful lights launching us into the magical world of The Nutcracker as Clara begins to dream. As the clock strikes midnight, life-size rats comically pop onto the stage as part of Clara’s nightmare, and quickly we fall into a nightmarish world where the monstrous Mouse King battles it out with the Nutcracker Prince. With some help from Clara, the Nutcracker Prince prevails and gratefully invites her on a journey into the Magical Forest.

Breathtakingly beautiful, the gorgeous lavender backdrop of ice-laden trees lead into the most incredible parts of the performances amongst the glittery snowfall. After being welcomed into the forest by dances from the Snowflakes and the Snow King and Queen, Clara and the Nutcracker Prince ascend back into the mist, upon a cloud built within the set, to the Nutcracker Prince’s Kingdom. The most notable dances of the night begin here, as Clara enters the gate of the Kingdom and is greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy, who gifts her with a glittering crown.

The series of spectacular dances kick off with the Spanish dancers, in burgundy red costumes, blazing across the stage with fiery steps. Then, in the most mesmerizing segment, the “Arabian,” Petra Conti hypnotizes the audience with her undulating back-bends, perfect splits, and fluid twirls. Charming, although not technically astounding, the piquant Chinese bring a flurry of color and flair to the stage in a brief dance. The long-awaited, famous Trepak draws notable excitement from the crowd as three Russian dancers energetically burst onto stage in split jumps, high kicks, and, of course, crowd-pleasing performances of prisiadka, or squat-kicks. The Dewdrop and her Flowers daintily perform the waltz. Finally, the performance closed with spectacular dancing from The Sugar Plum Fairy and The Nutcracker Prince, leaving the audience completely spellbound by their powerful pirouettes, skillful lifts, and perfect extensions.

All in all, the 43 performances featured 11 different casts, showcasing the vast talent within the Company of the Boston Ballet in a dazzling, nonstop, two-hour performance that takes the audience into a truly wondrous world as a spirit-lifting kickoff to the holiday season. It is sure to leave you with sugar plum fairies dancing through your dreams.