Uncle Drosselmeyer – Damian Smith
Clara – Elizabeth Powell
The Nutcracker Prince – Davit Karapetyan
King of the Mice – David Arce
Queen of Snow – Yuan-yuan Tan
King of Snow – Pierre-François Vilanoba
Sugar Plum Fairy – Vanessa Zahorian
San Francisco Ballet
San Francisco Ballet Orchestra
Martin West, conductor
Recorded live at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, California, on 19 and 20 December 2007.
- Illustrated synopsis and cast gallery
- Interviews with Helgi Tomasson, Michael Yeargan and Martin Pakledinaz
- Documentary: 1915 World's Fair
Picture format: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: 2.0 and 5.0 PCM
Region code: 0 (all regions)
Menu languages: English
Subtitles (extras only): German, French, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 133 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (BD 50)
R E V I E W:
TCHAIKOVSKY Nutcracker & • Martin West, cond; Damian Smith (Drosselmeyer); Elizabeth Powell (Clara); Davit Karapetyan (Nutcracker); David Arce (Mouse King); Yuan Yuan Tan (Snow Queen); Pierre-François Vilanoba (Snow King); Vanessa Zahorian (Sugar Plum Fairy); Maria Kochetkova (Grand pas de deux); San Francisco Ballet O • BBC/OPUS ARTE BD7044D (Blu-ray: 132: 00) Live: San Francisco 12/19–20/2007
& Illustrated synopsis, cast gallery, artist interviews, documentary on 1915 World’s Fair
David L. Kirk gave the DVD release of this production a thorough review in Fanfare 32:5, rightly declaring this to be “a first-class production with brilliant dancing, imaginative special effects, colorful costumes, and attractive scenery,” and numbering it among his three preferred video Nutcrackers. I second that notion.
In order for the San Francisco Ballet to take possession of this ubiquitous classic, choreographer Helgi Tomasson and his superb design team moved the action to San Francisco in 1915, the year the city hosted the World’s Fair. What this means in practical terms is that the women’s costumes in the first act are much slimmer and more dance-worthy than when the ballet is set in its original, earlier period, and that the action in the second act takes place in what seems to be a fairy-infested World’s Fair exhibition hall. As fine as the dancing is (from soloists and corps alike), it’s really the costumes of Martin Pakledinaz (including a Ballets Russes touch in the act II getups) and the scenic design of Michael Yeargan that make this production so vivid.
Now, it must be said that Tomasson’s choreography doesn’t entail much deep psychology (aside from establishing some motifs that really pull the developments in act I together). There’s nothing at all sinister about Drosselmeyer, who here is just an odd toymaker who likes to entertain kids with magic tricks (and serves as Clara’s chaperone through act II). There are no psychosexual shenanigans involving Clara and the Nutcracker, and despite the 1915 setting, the battle with the mice follows the conventions of 18th-century warfare, with nary a sniff of the trench or mustard gas.
Conductor Martin West’s work with the company orchestra is good, although the conducting and playing tend to lose focus in low-key numbers like the Arabian Dance. The best musical contribution to a video Nutcracker I know is Charles Mackerras’s account for the Pacific Northwest Ballet production, with its pointed rhythms and intense yearning. You can obtain the audio alone from Telarc.
The extra features here are truly interesting, not just filler. The audio is PCM only (choice of two or five channels), and the 16:9 picture is derived from a film transfer of multicamera video. There are a couple of sloppy little video edits that probably occurred when the show was being rushed onto PBS a couple of years ago, and should have been corrected before the home-video release, but they’ll slip by most viewers.
This endearing production deserves to be a basic Nutcracker for every household.