|Konstantin Ivanov's original sketch |
for the set of The Nutcracker (1892)
That's because, being a concert performance, it will be a "Nutcracker" without dancers (but with the charming children's chorus that accompanies the "Waltz of the Snowflakes). What it will have, though, is special lighting design by Luke Kritzeck, Director of Lighting and Resident Designer for the New World Symphony located in Miami Beach, Florida.
|The Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker|
Photo: The Fabulous Fox
The use of high-tech lighting and projections is nothing new for the SLSO, of course. In the past they have found some fairly ingenious ways of using projected images to enhance works written for the stage, from a performance of Copland's "Appalachian Spring" ballet suite accompanied by watercolors inspired by the ballet, to vivid projected scenery for a concert version of "Aida," to a performance of Schoenberg's "Five Pieces for Orchestra" in which each piece was accompanied by a more or less contemporary painting that mirrored the movement's central idea.
And "The Nutcracker" is certainly brimming with colorful scenes to inspire a visual designer. The first act includes the battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the Nutcracker's transformation into a handsome prince, and the magical journey to the Kingdom of Sweets. The second act gives us the various "national" dances (Chinese, Arabian, Spanish, and Russian Trepak), along with the dance of the mirlitons (a 19th-century cousin of the common kazoo, as well as a type of cake). There's also the popular "Waltz of the Flowers," the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" with its famous celesta solo, and the dramatic "Pas de Deux" for the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.
|Mother Gigogne and her children|
There's much more to be said about the music and the scenario of "The Nutcracker," but since Australian music writer Yvonne Frindle says it so well and in such great detail in the program, I'll just refer you there.
A few words are in order about this week's guest conductor, though. Now in his seventh season as Music Director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra in Elgin, Illinois (a town of just over 100,000 around 35 miles northwest of Chicago), Mr. Grams has had guest conducting gigs with high-profile domestic orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, the Detroit Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Houston Symphony. Internationally, his resume includes appearances with the symphony orchestras of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, as well as the Orchestre National de France, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra London, and orchestras in Australia and New Zealand. No wonder his web bio describes him as a "frequent traveler."
|The St. Louis Ballet's Nutcracker at the Touhill|
He'll also be bringing a musician's perspective to his conducting, having played violin with the New York City Ballet Orchestra from 1998 to 2004. He has played with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke's (both based on NYC), the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the New Jersey Symphony as well.
The Essentials: Andrew Grams conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and St. Louis Children's Choirs in a complete performance of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" ballet on Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm, November 29 - December 1. The program includes special lighting design by Luke Kritzeck. Performances take place at Powell Symphony Hall in Grand Center.