Happy Thanksgiving eve! As you’re waiting for the feast to begin with friends and family, how about some Nutcracker fun in the shape of a word game? We’ve got two different stories, so pick your favorite, chose your partner, and get word-smithing!
Click the images for printable versions, and send us your silly stories via social media!
Martin Pakledinaz designed the more than 40 tutus that appear in San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, from the Snowflakes’ winter whites to the Flowers’ pastel hues. One of these outranks the rest, however–at least in terms of weight. The “mechanical” ballerina doll that Drosselmeyer brings to the Stahlbaums’ party in Act 1 wears Nutcracker’s heaviest tutu. Her tutu weighs18 pounds!
In Clara’s dream, an army of toy soldiers come to life to aid the Nutcracker in his battle with the King of the Mice. It’s a well-organized army made up of four different ranks: officers, infantry, artillery, and cavalry. Both their choreography and their uniform (costume) illuminate their distinctive ranks.
Two officers lead the charge, marching neatly out of the toy cabinet carrying a flag and a drum. You can tell their rank by their high boots, their black helmets and sash, and the embellishment on their coats.
The infantry marches in perfect unity in striped trousers. Each is armed with a (wooden) rifle. This group handles most of the actual fighting with the mice. Their helmets are blue, with red-and-white tassels.
When the situation looks dire, the artillery brings out the big gun (literally). Their uniforms are similar to the officers’, but with a pink sash and longer red-and-white streamers on their helmets.
The cavalry (at right in the above photo) charges in on horseback, with swords raised, to battle the mice in hand-to-hand combat.
San Francisco Ballet danced America’s first performance of the complete Nutcracker at the War Memorial Opera House on December 24, 1944. The first production was choreographed by Willam Christensen; artist Antonio Sotomayor designed the sets and Russell Hartley (who also created the role of Mother Buffoon) created the costumes. As the production premiered during World War II, the program book, below, includes advertisements for War Bonds and a note about air raid precautions in the Opera House. On the cover of the first program book is Gisella Caccialanza Christensen, who danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
In 1954, Willam’s brother Lew, who succeeded Willam as SF Ballet’s director, created a new production designed by award-winning children’s book illustrator Leonard Weisgard. This more elaborate production was set in the American Victorian style of the 1850s. The program book covers evolved with the production, incorporating Weisgard’s colorful designs and a black-and-white image from the production.
The 1960s Nutcracker program book cover designs are characterized by deeply saturated color. As the decade progresses, the quaint, old-fashioned look of the design veers into Nutcracker psychedelia (never thought you’d hear those two words together, did you?). The first Lew Christensen Nutcracker played (from 1954–66) to more than 400,000 people. In 1967, Lew worked with designer Robert O’Hearn to create a lavish new production. With more than 250 costumes and a mechanized and electric Christmas tree, the O’Hearn production celebrated the 75th anniversary of Nutcracker‘s premiere in Russia. It took three years to raise the $130,000 for the sets and costumes.
The 1970s program book covers (all of the O’Hearn production) featured a mix of photography and illustrations, and even sculpture of the characters on the covers of the Nutcracker program books. Notice the characters that make up the sleeping child’s hair on the 1973 cover!
In 1980 Robert O’Hearn created new sets for the second act candy kingdom, and in 1982, fresh Flower costumes were designed. The 1980s program book covers were heralded by the advent of color photographs on the covers. In 1986, a new production was unveiled, designed by Jose Varona and featuring choreography by Lew Christensen and new artistic director Helgi Tomasson.
The 1990s featured the Jose Varona production, and program book covers that were a mix of illustration, still-life photography, and computer-created design, often featuring the iconic dancing, tambourine-wielding bear of that production.
Helgi Tomasson unveiled a brand-new production in 2004, set for the first time in San Francisco. With costumes by Martin Pakledinaz and sets by Michael Yeargan, this Nutcracker, set in 1915, has become a beloved classic and continues to be performed each year. Program book covers through the years have featured several of the productions’ many costumed characters.
With only 21 days left until the Nutcracker leaps across the War Memorial Opera House stage once again (and 34 days until the 75th anniversary of our first Nutcracker performance), we are hard at work making sure everything is in place.
Can you help us with our preparations? Find the 7 differences between these two images.
Looking for some other fun Nutcracker activities? We’ve got you covered!
On the first day of Nutcracker, SF Ballet gave to me: carolers in the lobby! Before our opening night performance on December 11—as well as before the rest of our Passport performances this holiday season—a local choir will perform some of your favorite holiday hymns and hits. Come to the War Memorial Opera House early, grab a festive drink, and listen to these fabulous performers: