Took the girls to see Washington Ballet Nutcracker. Fantastic sets and staging, among other things. Don't know what it is about that thing, but my girl and I both bristle like cats and have to try hard not to cry during that part when that SOB brother breaks her new, favorite doll. And Drosselmeyer applies his magic to fix him...but she still has to slip downstairs to see if he's OK and rock him to sleep...and then the rats creep in...and she is afraid, but brave...bales out her man and gets a prince for her trouble.
I'm a huge fan of E.T.A. Hoffman, the Philip K. Dick of his time. Hoffman had this obsession with automata, with what constitutes the sincere expression of human love and what is a sham and how the vulnerable are deluded, and how this delusion and the betrayal, the realization that one can be so fooled by a painted-on face, can lead to true madness.
I TiVo the Baryshnikov Nutcracker, and we watch that every year, too. I've told my daughter how Kirkland was a great dancer, but she stopped eating good foods and it made her too sick to dance for a while. Kirkland's still working. Yay!
I've read that Tchaikovsky wasn't crazy about this job; he was working for hire by that point. The super-sexy music for the pas de deux came out of a bet that he couldn't write something with all the notes of the octave in order. A mere exercise that flared into beauty. Works out that way sometimes.
Of course I can't hear his music without thinking of Ken Russell.
Never seen the Mark Morris The Hard Nut. (In link hunting, discovered Thackeray had translated the Hoffman story!) Need to find a DVD of that ballet--to watch well AFTER baby bedtime.