Une Petite Fête

City Ballet Brings The Nutcracker to Spreckels Theatre

City Ballet Brings The Nutcracker to Spreckels Theatre

Gather ‘round on Christmas Eve with all of your family and friends, surrounded by dancing dolls and toy soldiers. With laughter, presents and good cheer, the festivities will draw to a close late at night, until everyone finally departs into the winter air. And as the clock strikes midnight—with a wave of the hand by the magical Herr Drosselmeyer—the world changes, becoming filled with Waltzing Snowflakes, Dancing Dewdrops and the Sugar Plum Fairy. This isn’t a hallucination or sugar-fueled dream—no, this is the plot of the prominent holiday ballet The Nutcracker.

Originally composed in 1892 by famed Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker is one of the most well-known ballets and favored holiday productions in the world. While the premiere production, choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, was not successful, The Nutcracker has since become a show audiences clamor to see. From little girls in puffy dresses and big hair bows amazed by a wide-eyed Clara to seasoned adults looking for a theatrical production this holiday season, The Nutcracker is a family-favorite affair, and no local company performs the ballet better than City Ballet of San Diego.

City Ballet is the brainchild of Steven and Elizabeth Wistrich, two ballet dancers determined to make a world-class company in San Diego. Established in 1993, the Balanchine-trained Steven Wistrich is now the Artistic Director of the company, while Elizabeth Wistrich serves as the resident choreographer. Now within its 24th year, City Ballet of San Diego is a local staple and at the forefront of Southern California ballet companies. In the midst of their 2016–17 season is their rendition of the classic ballet The Nutcracker, performed at Spreckels Theatre and accompanied by the live City Ballet Orchestra. City Ballet melds classic ballet with holiday traditions in their production of The Nutcracker, filled with enough pirouettes, jetés and pas de deux to excite even the most casual viewer. We spoke with Steven Wistrich about City Ballet’s upcoming production, The Nutcracker’s thrall and what’s next for the high-quality company in 2017.

City Ballet of San Diego

With 12 total performances, The Nutcracker is your longest running show every year; what can audiences look forward to?

City Ballet of San Diego is presenting its award winning production of The Nutcracker this December for the 22nd year. There are families who attend our performances every year, and they tell me they wouldn't enjoy the season nearly as much without seeing our [The Nutcracker]. It’s choreographed by our long-time resident choreographer, Elizabeth Wistrich,who just this month was honored with a Women Who Mean Business Award.

Why is The Nutcracker such a beloved and timeless ballet?

Our production is loved for several reasons. First off, we have the best dancers in the area performing in this production. The scenery and costumes are spectacular and a perfect reflection of the period of time that the beloved story takes place. It's very colorful—but extremely tasteful—and is enhanced with a Christmas tree that grows to the full height of the proscenium of the magnificent, historic Spreckels Theater. I always get chills watching it snow on stage during the famous Waltz of the Snowflakes. We also have the excellent City Ballet Orchestra to play the magnificent score by Tchaikovsky.

City Ballet of San Diego Nutcracker

What makes City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker stand out? What are some of the best/most fun dances in the production?

The production will have nearly 100 children this year in four different casts. They have been rehearsing their parts every weekend since the end of September and will look very polished in their various roles.

Some of my favorite parts of the production are watching the party scene in Act I—it’s very engrossing as we watch the story unfold and see how the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer creates magic on the stage. The second act is especially colorful and filled with wonderful dancers doing challenging, imaginative choreography. There is an exciting Spanish Dance, and the Russian Dance features our excellent male dancers doing high-flying jumps and exciting turns. The large scale Waltz of the Flowers always thrills our audiences! Our principal dancers who perform the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier are good enough to perform their grand pas de deux anywhere in the world. It's not uncommon for our performances to receive standing ovations at the end.

Finally, how is the 2016–17 season shaping up for City Ballet?

The 2016-17 season is off to a great start! After The Nutcracker, the company will be presenting performances in March with two ballets by George Balanchine and our first ballet by the great Jerome Robbins: The Afternoon of a Faun with music by [Claude] Debussy. His work has never before been presented in San Diego, so we are thrilled to have that honor. We will also be presenting our first ballet by Peter Martins, the Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet. It's called Hallelujah Junction, with music by John Adams. 

Then in May 2017, we will present Elizabeth Wistrich's spectacular production of Carmen with the famous Georges Bizet score. It has opera-quality scenery and lavish costumes—[it] has always been one of our most popular productions. And our second resident choreographer, Geoff Gonzales, will choreograph a new productions of Vivaldi's Four Seasons! Season subscription tickets are available!

For Related Articles Try:

The Nutcracker: City Ballet of San Diego

Review of 2015 Nutcracker Production

City Ballet Gala 2016