The Lithuanian National Opera and Nutcracker Ballet in Vilnius
The Christmas lights are on. This is the time of the year for all ballet companies in the world to bring out the Nutcracker.
Drawn in by tinsel and Tchaikovsky, we visited the Nutcracker in Vilnius (on the 18th of December last year – which is only three weeks ago and I am sooo behind with blogging).
Anyhow, I loved the performance, called Spragtukas in Lithuanian which made me think of the similar sounding Spartacus. True to the name, the ballet troupe gave a gladiator-grand performance.
It was exactly how I hoped it would be. The story was beautifully brought to stage – thumbs up for the choreography (I hereby withdraw previous claims about not being able to stage the Nutcracker understandably for the viewer), the dancing was precise and showed off classic ballet technique at its best, the acting was competent and drew me right into the story.
Costumes and stage decoration were a delight, immensely detailed and romantic. Perfectionist pros that came all the way from Russia (indicated by the opera’s website), responsible for choreography, costume design and sets, created a dreamlike atmosphere worthy of the famous tale. Ballet made in Russia bears the promise of high quality and classic dance tradition, sought after all over the world.
At the theatre it was like being read the story by a parent in bed. With every new ballet suite a page was turned in my imaginary picture book, to bring out the next episode of E.T.A Hoffmann’s Christmas story.
Here is more or less the outline of the spectacle:
ACT I. On Christmas Eve the Stahlbaums, with their children Marie and Fritz, are welcoming family and friends to their Christmas party and inviting their guests to a dance in their grand parlour featuring a huge Christmas tree. Marie’s and Fritz’s godfather Drosselmeyer arrives, masked as a magician, giving out masks for the children to play.
Marie receives the Nutcracker, a huge doll that can crack nuts. Fritz is jealous and treats the doll harshly, so that Marie has to hide her Nutcracker.
After the guests have left, Marie sneaks back to the parlour to fetch the Nutcracker, when the old clock comes to life and the magic begins. Toys get into a fight with soldiers of the crazy mice king, the Nutcracker turns into a prince and off they go to Marie’s dreamland – a great scene as they fly away floating above the stage in a fancy balloon.
The Nutcracker is really about first love.
ACT II. Marie and the prince are flying through the whirl of dancing snowflakes (in enchanting tutu dresses) to enjoy the wonderland of chocolate (Spanish dance), coffee (Arabian dance), tea (Chinese dance), the trepak (Russian dance), the waltz of the flowers and the sugar plum fairy.
The mice king is still after the toys but the latter turn out victorious as the Nutcracker fights the rodents bravely. This leads to the glorious final waltz of the dolls and sweets. A story book happy end.
Well, not quiet yet for Marie, who has to wake up, grow up and meet the prince of her dreams.
Anastasia Čumakova and Romas Ceizaris as Marie and the prince.
The tiny Nutcracker was still standing after the curtains closed behind it.
This was truly a production to enjoy and admire. A show with a lot of heart, a huge Christmas tree and golden baubles.
The architecture is equally captivating. The Lithuanian National Opera is a huge square communist block build in the mid 1970s.
The Opera has psychedelic socialism interior. If you like kaleidoscopes and fractals, you will love the Opera.
The main hall is monumental with massive chandeliers and 1970s brown leather couches.
Look up and marvel.
Spook-spacey entrance. Soviet Star Trek feel.
Mirrors everywhere. Good for secret agents and pretty couples.
Couldn’t get enough secret pictures. I am spying on Tomek but he doesn’t know. Shsh.
The cafeteria serves jelly deserts, hot and cold drinks. But really smashing is the décor.
The Opera was well equipped with souvenir CDs of the ballet performance and programs in English.
The orchestra performed Tchaikovsky’s masterpieces under the direction of Martynas Staškus.
FAQs: Did I brag about having first row seats? The view was amazing! To get those super duper seats we placed an online reservation weeks before (while living in Athens) and picked our tickets up at the Opera’s ticket booth about three hours before the performance. It all worked out very well after we accidentally placed a reservation for the entire first row. Ups.
Location: Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, A. Vienuolio str. 1, Vilnius
See you at the next ballet! For now, you can compare this Nutcracker to the Greek Crisis Nutcracker, enjoy the hilarious all-male ballet Trockaderos de Monte Carlo we saw in Bangkok, or the strange Brothers Karamazov from Budapest, if you like.