The Nutcracker Bio.
The story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was written by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1816). Alexandre Dumas' adaptation of the story was set to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (after the libretto of Marius Petipa) and has become the most popular ballet performed around Christmas time. It is appealing to children and adults alike and has been a standard yearly feature of theatres in many cities.
The music in Tchaikovsky's ballet is some of the composer's most popular. The music belongs to the Romantic tradition and contains some of his most memorable melodies which are frequently used in television and film. The Trepak, or Russian dance, is one of the most recognizable pieces in the ballet, along with the famous Waltz of the Flowers and March, as well as the ubiquitous Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy. The ballet contains surprisingly advanced harmonies and a wealth of melodic invention unsurpassed in ballet music. Nevertheless, the composer's reverence for Rococo and late 18th-century music can be detected in passages such as the Overture, the "entrée des parents," and "Tempo di Grossvater" in Act I.
One novelty in Tchaikovsky's original score was the use of the celesta, a new instrument Tchaikovsky had discovered in Paris. He wanted it genuinely for the character of the Sugar-Plum Fairy to characterize her because of its "heavenly sweet sound". It appears not only in her "Dance," but also in other passages in Act II. Tchaikovsky also uses toy instruments during the Christmas party scene.
Suites derived from this ballet became very popular on the concert stage. The composer himself extracted a suite of seven movements from the ballet, but that authoritative move has not prevented later hands from arranging other selections and sequences of numbers. Eventually one of these ended up in Disney's Fantasia. In any case, The Nutcracker Suite should not be mistaken for the complete ballet.
Although the original ballet is only ninety minutes long, and therefore much shorter than Swan Lake or The Sleeping Beauty, some modern staged performances have omitted or re-ordered some of the music, or inserted selections from elsewhere, thus adding to the confusion over the suites. In fact, most of the very famous versions of the ballet have had the order of the dances slightly re-arranged, if they have not actually altered the music.