We very nearly didn’t make it to the New Year’s Eve performance of the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House. Tired and discouraged by the gloomy wet weather we were tempted to stay in with a cup of tea in front of the fire. Reminding myself (and my friend) of the uplifting music and sumptuousness of the Royal Opera House productions, we jumped in the car and sped towards Covent Garden, before we could change our minds again.
Uninterested by the mad New Year's Eve nightlife in London, a trip to see the Royal Ballet seemed a perfectly civilised and special alternative. We followed the crowds of best dressed kids up into our cheap seats, and I gleefully got out my beautiful vintage opera glasses I was given for Christmas.
The ballet was beautiful as ever, stunning dancing, costumes and set, and with an orchestra of tremendous force and quality. The interpretation of the story however did confuse me slightly, and I prefer the English National’s Ballet’s more romantic and traditional take on this classic work.
The story begins and ends in the toymaker's workshop, instead of in Clara’s bedroom, strangely making the narrative less enchanting, leaving the audience bewildered about the logistics of the tale, is it a dream or not? We never meet Clara as a child, instead lead ballerina Leanne Cope dances as the young girl throughout, also taking part in the second half show performances which is very odd. Perhaps I have been misled as I grew up with the English National Ballet version, however I think even for a Nutcracker first timer this story choice would be incongruous.
Moving down surreptitiously to a superior box for the second half (I spotted it during Act 1) we had a magnificent view of the production, and it truly sparkles. Leanne Cope is so smiley, it is impossible not to enjoy her performance as Clara and Paul Kay shows great strength and character dancing as her partner, the Nutcracker. Several of the cast were away for our performance but the substitutes were certainly not second rate, Marianela Nunez is a very precise and elegant Sugar Plum Fairy and Yuhui Choe is poised and lovely as the pretty in pink Rose Fairy.
It was quite simply beautiful, the perfect afternoon out, and the perfect way to end 2011.
Continues until 18 January, book here.