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The Story

The Story of The Nutcracker Ballet
adapted from this article

The Christmas Party:
It is Christmas Eve at the Silverhaus family’s house. Herr and Frau Silverhaus have gathered in the parlor to decorate the beautiful Christmas tree in preparation for the night's festivities. Once the tree is decorated and their guests have arrived, their children Clara and Fritz are invited into the parlor. The children stand in awe of the tree sparkling with candles and decorations. The festivities begin! A march is played on the piano. Presents are given out to the children. Suddenly, as the clock strikes eight, a mysterious figure enters the room. It is Herr Drosselmeyer, Clara and Fritz's godfather. He is a talented toymaker and magician who has brought with him gifts for the children, including life-like dolls — a Harlequin, a Columbine and a Soldier — who dance to the delight of everyone. Herr Silverhaus has the precious dolls put away for safekeeping. Clara and Fritz are sad to see the dolls taken away, but everyone is called into the dining room for the evening meal. Herr Drosselmeyer pulls Clara aside and presents her with a wooden Nutcracker carved in the shape of a little man. Clara is delighted and thanks her godfather. Clara immediately takes a liking to it. Jealous of Clara's new toy, Fritz tries to use the nutcracker to crack a walnut that is too large and hard for its wooden jaw and inadvertently breaks it. Clara is heartbroken. Drosselmeyer comes to the toy’s aid and wraps his handkerchief around the broken jaw. Clara takes the wounded toy to her doll's bed, lulling it to sleep. The boys interrupt with their toy trumpets and horns. Herr and Frau Silverhaus announce it is time to finish off the evening with a traditional Grandfather dance. Afterwards, the guests depart, and the children are sent off to bed.

 

The Battle:
During the night, after everyone else has gone to bed, Clara returns to the parlor to check on her beloved nutcracker. As she reaches the little bed, the clock strikes midnight and she looks up to see her Godfather Drosselmeyer perched above the clock in place of the owl. Suddenly, mice begin to fill the room and the Christmas tree begins to grow to dizzying heights. The Nutcracker also grows to life-size. Has the room gotten larger or has Clara gotten smaller? Clara finds herself in the midst of a battle between an army of toy soldiers and the mice, led by the Rat King. The Nutcracker appears to lead the toy soldiers. As the Rat King advances on the still-wounded Nutcracker, Clara throws her slipper at him (or in some productions, she teases him with a piece of cheese), distracting him long enough for the Nutcracker to stab him.

A Snowy Forest:
The mice retreat and the Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome Prince. He leads Clara through the moonlit night to a pine forest in which the Snow Queen and King lead the snowflakes in a dance around them.

The Land of Sweets
Clara and the Prince travel (in a sleigh, swan or nutshell boat, or balloon) to the beautiful Land of Sweets ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Prince's place until his return. The Prince recounts for the Sugar Plum Fairy how he had been saved by Clara from the Rat King and had been transformed back into a Prince. In honor of the young heroine, a celebration of sweets from around the world is prepared: Chocolate from Spain, Coffee from Arabia, and Tea from China all dance for their amusement; Candy Canes from Russia perform an intricate hoop dance; Danish Marzipan Shepherdesses perform on their flutes; Mother Ginger has her Polichinelle children emerge from under her enormous skirt to dance; a string of beautiful flowers perform a waltz. (These dances vary from performance to performance. There can also be Russian Trepak Dancers, Mirliton Shepherdesses, Reed Flute Dancers, among others.) To conclude the night, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier perform a Pas de Deux. A final waltz is performed by all the sweets after which Clara is sent on her return home. Clara wakes up from where she had fallen asleep on the parlor sofa and finds her Nutcracker toy in her arms... was it a dream or was it real?
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