The Nutcracker Story

I would like to take you behind the scenes for the real story of The Nutcracker.   Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant since there was little opportunity for a musical career in Russia back in the day. There was no system for public musical education.  Fortunately  an opening at the  Saint Nicholas Academy popped up and he attended and  graduated in 1865.   But this isn’t the story I would like to tell you about.

Instead I would like to focus on one Ernest Theodore Wilhelm Hoffman  (Boy they loved to grow handles like their mustaches), better known by his pen name, E. T. A. Hoffmann. The Wilhelm was changed to Amadeus in admiration for Mozart.  Any way, Hoffman was a German Romantic author of fantasy and horror. He was also a jurist and taught law. He was a composer and a  music critic. During his off hours he designed buildings and messed around drawing  caricatures of his bosses which created a great amount of trouble for him.

You have to understand that back then you needed a lot of talent to earn a solid living, especially since constant warring in Prussia kept him on the go between cities, to stay out of the line of fire.

But through it all, he wrote. And wrote and wrote .  In the final years of his life, he continued to write via dictation because he was bedridden and paralyzed.  With his  amazing imagination, his works equalled such writers as Mary Shelly, John Polidori and Bram Stoker.  Hoffmann’s work is considered to be one of the best examples of the German Romantic style, and he’s credited to be a pioneer in the fantasy genre.

In 1815 he wrote The Devil’s Elixur’s.  This was well before the above mentioned authors gave rise to their full screwed up novels.  Hoffman’s first published account was based on an earlier book named the The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis, published in 1796. His story explores the concept of the doppelgänger, that’s a German term for double.( that seems simple enough even for those of us who can’t seem to grasp the simplest of concepts) Any way a monk is seduced into drinking  a powerful elixir and he begins experiencing intense sensual desires. Could this have been the first Viagra high?  While hallucinating,  he meets a mad prince who serves as his double throughout the story.  It’s a intriguing introspection of dark desires, sin, evil, and corruption of the soul.  This is what TV soaps are made of.

In 1816  he created the novella, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, , the original story was a complex world of intrigue, adventure, and true love between a girl and her nutcracker doll.  I shall not delve further into the world of latex, hopefully retaining that information for a forthcoming blog.

The book  was translated into many other languages, spreading widely across Europe.  The story premiered on the Russian ballet stage at the St. Petersburg branch of the Musical Society on March 19, 1892.  Tchaikovsky himself conducted the premiere.  The pieces became virtually instant hits.  Tchaikovsky finished the full score for “The Nutcracker” ballet about a month later, although the public did not see the ballet until December 18, 1892 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre. The ballet, like the suite, was performed in St. Petersburg, however it was not the success envisioned.  In the United States, both works became staples in dance and concert music. Thanks to the lush musical score, the story has lived on and thrives in our imaginations nearly 200 years after it was first published.

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