The New Nutcracker


While for most non-Georgians, the festive season ended as soon as the champagne bottles were thrown out and the tree taken down, for some the magic goes on.

On February 1 and 2, a new version of the Christmas fairytale ‘The Nutcracker,’ by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, is being presented at the Tbilisi Z. Paliashvili Opera and Ballet State Theater, and it is well worth going for that magical escape to childhood magic (for adults) and as a bright, colorful adventure to feed the imagination (for young ones).

I took my three children, aged 10, 8 and 6, to the ballet, shown in two acts, mid-January before school restarted. Aside from the huge, twinkling tree in the foyer, the first treat to be revealed was a floor to ceiling stage curtain painted by the superb team at the Opera house, lead by David Popiashvili. It showed, in the style of the posters that first caught my eye in the Tbilisi streets, the young Clara Stahlbaum [renamed Barbare Dadiani for the Georgian version] with a cast of animals, animated dolls, fairies and party guests around her and, of course, the Christmas tree. At the bottom of the curtain, as the lights dimmed and a spotlight fell, was the cheeky face of The Nutcracker.

As per tradition, before the dancers stepped out on stage, the audience paid homage to the orchestra, conducted by the great Papuna Ghvaberidze. Sitting there, drinking in the rainbow details of the giant painting while listening to Tchaikovsky (and fielding all the “What is that? What will happen? What’s the story about? questions from my young ones) was the perfect warm-up to the evening ahead.

And then the scenery was revealed: first the snow-covered rooftops and ice-filled streets of the town, with some notable Tbilisi landmarks that had my lot whispering in excited recognition, as the Dadiani family’s party guests arrived; then the ballroom, with its giant Christmas tree, grandfather clock, table with a bowl of fruit, etc., positioned at the edges (that were to cleverly transform from life-size 3D objects, to 2D paintings, to giants as the scene changes, and character sizes dictated).

The costumes (designer: Ana Kalatozishvili), their color, texture and combinations, were truly wondrous to behold as the guests greeted one another in a dance, and we were introduced to Barbare and her brother Levan (Fritz) and their magical and charismatic Uncle Drosselmeyer (played by David Ananeli). My children met the dancing dolls from Spain, France, China, Russia and India- the youngest laughing at their funny moves and the eldest studying them carefully to put into practice at her own ballet classes. We could well-relate to Barbare and Levan’s squabble over the best toy (a common event in our house!) and Levan’s attempt to break it when he couldn’t get it.

Yonan Takano’s transformation from wooden nutcracker to human was excellently choreographed, as were the mechanical mice which dashed across the stage before the ensuing energetic fight between the tin soldiers and the Mouse King.

The scenery continued to wow as we shrank down to the size of mice (the effect achieved by raising the height of the painted Christmas tree and the furniture I mentioned earlier), and watched as snow fell in droves backstage but never actually hit the stage.

The dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (soloist Nina Samadashvili) left us stunned and then clapping vigorously, as did Barbare and The Nutcracker’s flight off into the wings on the back of a giant ladybird.

The ending left us grinning and the children eager for more. And we were lucky enough to get a peep backstage to explore the magical tree and ladybird – my sincere thanks to the organizers and Friends of the Georgian Ballet for that treat!

All in all, a brilliant evening away from reality in the already magical setting of the Tbilisi Opera House. Beautiful scenery, a local setting, excellent costumes, and superb dancing, choreographed by Georgia’s own Prima Ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, and Alexey Fadeechev.

On this weekend. February 1, 19:00, February 2, 14:00

Limited tickets left. Apply to the Box Office directly.

By Katie Ruth Davies

30 January 2020 18:53