Written by Meikee Magnetic San Francisco USA
San Francisco – Nothing resonates Christmas more than The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, a delightful tale written in 1816 by author E.T.A. Hoffmann. On Tuesday, December 21, just a few days before Christmas, I attended and saw this story come to life like never before. The tale itself is a wondrous story of imagination that has touched the hearts of children and adults alike for over 200 years. A story that takes place on Christmas Eve with a cast of children, clockmakers, toy soldiers, mice, and dolls. Oh no, it just doesn’t stop there. In 1892, Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky teamed up with a few choreographers to conceptualize a new form of our favorite Christmas tale. The story turned into a famous ballet we’ve all grown to adore and love, “The Nutcracker,” which has spawned off to entertain millions globally. Each composition wraps around the story like the perfect bow on a beautifully wrapped gift. Songs we’ve heard for decades in film, and I’d say that Tchaikovsky’s musical compositions have become part of our DNA.
When I heard actor Alan Cumming was narrating this new musical production live with conductor Thiago Tiberio and The San Francisco Symphony, I knew I was in store for a unique interpretation of the three-part tale. The Davis Symphony Hall was aligned with beautifully decorated Christmas trees and holiday decor everywhere you looked. The temptation for that perfect Christmas selfie was too great, and I had to give in to that urge, which I’m glad I did, as it becomes a long-lasting memory to cherish. I was delighted to see that everyone else around me seemed to be feeling the spirit of the joyous season, and during a chaotic time in our lives, we all need good vibes to share. As we took our seats among the vaccinated and masked audience, the orchestra began, with each note-taking me back to a feeling of childhood.
Alan Cumming was the absolute perfect choice as narrator. His voice accentuated the story and captured the feeling of Christmas from beginning to end. Cumming is a well-known Tony award-winning Scottish actor with many other accomplishments. A few memorable roles included his portrayal of the Nightcrawler in the X-Men films, Emma, James Bond, and he also played opposite Sean Connery. During Mr. Cummings reading, a technical problem arose, where his mic went out. Being the professional he is, his calm and relaxed demeanor quickly took over as he spoke to us without a mic, “Can you hear me?” A sea of applause began to erupt as a curled smile appeared on his face comparable to the Grinch himself.
Without delay Conductor, Thiago Tiberio, who’s already had the Symphony on a gentle pause, assisted, and the mic returned. Mr. Cumming, without hesitation, responds, “It’s a Christmas miracle!” And we all let out a roar of laughter followed by applause. As the story and music continued, each song became more and more recognizable and magical. It was easy to close your eyes and picture the Nutcracker Soldier’s doll jaw-breaking, then little Marie bandages him up with a ribbon from her dress to make everything better again.
As the night went on, our beloved SF orchestra perfectly executed each musical composition. From the slight twiddles of flutes portraying mice in the tale to triangle twangs, my eyes quickly darted between each musician as I took in their fantastic playing. As much as I wanted to pick a favorite, I just couldn’t because it was all of them together that made the magic of the music special. So much talent and technique were displayed, and when the entire orchestra played the same crescendos and peaks, you could feel the power of each action in the tale erupt.
The Nutcracker and The Mouse King is something to experience at least a few times in your lifetime, whether with your fiancé, family, children, or just good friends. It’s a rare holiday treat that never grows old and one that begins, as all great stories do, with “Once upon a time” ….
For more info on the SF Symphony, go to: www.sfsymphony.org