But you still need to activate your account.
Sign in or Subscribe to view this content.
As a bitter wind chilled the outside world, the Maine Center for the Arts warmed the hearts of young and old with this past weekend’s presentation of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, “The Nutcracker.”
While a brass quartet serenaded the crowd with carols before the performance, young couples and families with children, and old friends of all ages entered and met in the festive lobby. Holiday lights twinkled merrily, leading audience members to an art show featuring works inspired by “The Nutcracker,” and created by artists from Penobscot Valley Industries.
With the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Zimmerman, tucked below the stage in the pit, Susan Jonason, executive director of the symphony, welcomed the audience to the evening’s performance, pointing out that “The Nutcracker” has been a holiday tradition for the Bangor Symphony and the Robinson Ballet Company for 16 years.
Director Zimmerman acknowledged the welcoming applause, waving his barely visible hands from the orchestra pit, and the symphony launched into the familiar melodies of the overture. A nice touch was the procession of “Nutcracker” party guests in front of the closed curtain, presumably on their way to the Christmas party at the home of the Silberhaus family, which is where the story begins.
The story of the ballet is odd, and a little surreal, which is not surprising since it is based on the tale, “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King,” by E.T.A. Hoffmann , the 19th-century master of magical romanticism. What begins as a rather commonplace depiction of a Christmas house party during the last century changes tone as the mysterious guest, Drossellmeyer, arrives in his trademark sinister cape and eye patch.
Foreshadowing abound, and eventually Clara is presented with the Nutcracker doll, which is promptly broken in a tussle with her bratty younger brother. After that, the story of the ballet enters the world of dreams, where toy soldiers battle a mouse army, where flowers and snowflakes dance, and where a cast of strange and wonderful characters always delight.
This year’s cast was excellent, with the part of Clara performed and danced by Janessa Nason. She sparkled and glowed throughout the evening, and charmed her way into the hearts of the audience with her depiction of a child’s sense of wonder. Robert Libbey, as Clara’s bumbling papa, along with Emily Briscone and Cornelia Spyra, as the family’s overworked and dizzy housemaids, added lots of humor to the opening act. Appropriately mischievous was Patrick Taylor, who gave a lively performance as Clara’s younger brother, Fritz.
The dancing often was lovely, especially so when featuring the solo work of guest dancers Amy Rose as the Sugar Plum Fairy and David Baudendistel as the Cavalier. Their exquisite interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s beautiful “Pas de Deux” was an evening highlight. Many of the exotic set pieces also were appreciated, particularly the graceful Arabian dance, featuring William Kane and Erica Schweikert, and the exuberant Russian dance performed by Caleb McGary, Heather Robinson, Alanna Huunsell, and Dusti Kimball.
As the BSO flowed effortlessly from the “Trepak” to the “Dance of the Sugar-Plum-Fairy” and into the grand finale, with all the dancers on stage in a sea of graceful arms and legs, the Maine Center for the Arts audience burst into smiles and hearty applause, signaling the conclusion of one of the holiday season’s traditional pleasures.
While it might be said that “The Nutcracker” is light fare, a piece of holiday confection, it also is true that the holidays are the season for confections of all kinds. And there are few better ways to share a love of music and the arts with a child, whether that child is an actual person of tender years, or only the one we all keep within our hearts.