And, indeed, it was a very enjoyable performance. At the outset, Haglund wants to say that his ears have never heard a more beautiful violin solo in Act 1 than he heard today from soloist Nicolas Danielson – achingly beautiful notes that made you close your eyes and slow your breathing. At its conclusion and before the audience could even get its hands together for its sustained applause, Danielson’s colleagues in the pit were stomping and clanking their music stands in admiration and appreciation. As a whole, the orchestra sounded great today.
Act I included the familiar Maria Gorokhov as Marie and Jeremy Wong as Fritz. Both delivered lively performances with the professional polish developed from years of experience in this production. Jonathan Alexander as the Nephew/Nutcracker Prince gave it a very good shot and should be commended for his mimed summation of the Battle of the Mice. And oh what a battle it was. The Mouse King, portrayed by the wickedly handsome Henry Seth, very nearly pulled off a coup with his mice-troops. He was about to slice his sword through the Nutcracker Prince when, once again this year, THE BUNNY appeared out of nowhere to grab the Mouse King’s tail and yank it with such force that the other mice froze in their tracks horrified. Horrified. “Oh the Ratmanity!” they cried out. The Bunny, observing the crumbling mice-troops, exclaimed with his fists, “My work here is done!” and like a shooting star, ran a wide circle downstage and disappeared into the dark wings to try desperately to grow into a Party Scene costume by next year.
Don’t wanna forget – Excellent soldiering from Giovanni Villalobos, especially the flexed-footed batterie and tours.
Act II brought us Sugarplum Fairy Kaitlyn Gilliland and Cavalier Jonathan Stafford. Sugarplum addressed the technical challenges with great skill and expertise. It is just amazing to watch those long legs and feet assemble and disassemble with such clarity and security, particularly during the fiendish partnering sequences. And while concentration and focus are to be admired, a Sugarplum shouldn’t let them interfere with her rapport with the audience. The audience is not a studio mirror, and there are lots of people seated above the orchestra level. The Sugarplum needs to show the audience how much she loves what she is doing, and loves the music, and above all loves her Cavalier. The Cavalier’s eyes searched for the Sugarplum’s eyes throughout their PdD, but hers were rarely there for him. More confidence, more joy, Sugarplum - you’re entitled.
The Cavalier was superb in every way today. His partnering of a very tall Sugarplum was confident and close to perfectly executed. His variation was space devouring. His turns in a la seconde were rapid and neat. His demeanor was princely. He and the Sugarplum looked very attractive together as they certainly would in a Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty.
Sterling Hyltin’s Dew Drop was linear and highly kinetic whereas the Flowers in front of whom she danced moved with a more rounded, quasi-romantic quality. Haglund doesn’t like to see Dew Drop performed like it’s a Theme and Variations spectacular. However, he likes Sterling’s artistic choices in much of the rest of the repertory.
All of the Sweets in the Land of Sweets danced with great spirit, especially Allen Peiffer as the Candy Cane. It was a terrific afternoon and a completely delightful Nutcracker – probably around Haglund’s 100th – one version or another over all these decades. Too bad Sarah couldn’t be there.
All of the dancing was absolutely terrific today, but Haglund must award the Pump Bump to Nicolas Danielson for his exquisite violin solo:
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