Harvard’s Federico Cortese explains enduring appeal of ‘The Nutcracker’

Saturday, December 15, 2018 - 23:40 in Mathematics & Economics

Last month, Walt Disney Studios released “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” the latest interpretation of German author E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story of a toy that comes to life to battle a giant mouse king. The best-known “Nutcracker” is a ballet based on Alexander Dumas’ adaptation of Hoffman’s tale, with music by the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The piece premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892, a year before the Tchaikovsky’s death. More than a half-century later, George Balanchine transformed it into an American classic. “It was Balanchine in New York that made it,” said Harvard’s Federico Cortese, referring to the Russian-born choreographer’s 1954 staging for the New York City Ballet. Through the years, “Nutcracker” directors have played with the cast, set design, and even the storyline, often incorporating the darker elements of Hoffman’s original tale, but it’s the music that remains at the heart of any production. Cortese, who directs the Harvard-Radcliffe...

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