Nothing quite says the holiday season like the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree, the taste of a batch of eggnog, or the sounds of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite ballet playing throughout the home.
This ballet has delighted adults and children alike for over a hundred years in one form or another. While the original 20-minute performance of the late 1800s was not a complete success, the 1960 version has become wildly popular and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in North America.
The Story of the Nutcracker Suite
The story of the Nutcracker Suite is loosely based on the E.T.A. Hoffmann fantasy story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, about a girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and wages a battle against the evil Mouse King.
The ballet opens with a view inside the Stahlbaums home, a large and well-adorned house with the largest Christmas tree imaginable. The children, Clara and Fritz Stahlbaum are dancing around welcoming visitors to their holiday party. The party is festive and happy with family and friends in attendance for the holidays.
When godfather Drosselmeyer, a toymaker, arrives, he presents two life-size dolls to the family. He also gives Clara a beautiful Nutcracker that quickly becomes the hit of the party. Unfortunately, her younger brother breaks the Nutcracker in his youth and excitement of the night. Clara is heartbroken but satisfied when her godfather is able to repair the gift.
After the partygoers leave and Clara falls asleep with her Nutcracker she begins to experience some strange events. She awakes to find the Christmas tree growing and herself shrinking. The scene becomes a fight scene with the toys around the tree coming to life while the room fills with an army of mice, led by the fierce Mouse King. As the Nutcracker also awakens, he leads his army of toy soldiers into battle with the mice. The Nutcracker can fight no longer but is saved by Clara.
The scene shifts to a land of snow where the Nutcracker has become a prince and Clara a princess. The snowflakes dancing around her make for a beautiful scene of snow and winter wonderland.
From there the Nutcracker prince escorts Clara to the Land of Sweets where she is greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Prince tells the Fairy about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of dances.
After her dreamy adventures, Clara awakens by the Christmas tree holding her beloved Nutcracker.
Backdrop Suggestions for the Nutcracker Suite
Since the ballet begins at the Stahlbaums home, a formal home backdrop will serve the performance well. This Conservatory Backdrop #N0451 is a neutral Victorian interior with a center staircase leading up to a conservatory.
As Clara fades off to sleep in the living room under the decorated Christmas tree, this Growing Christmas Tree Backdrop #2245 is a perfect way to make the magic of the ballet come to life.
During Clara’s dream, she visits a snowy landscape as well as the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy with her prince, the Nutcracker. Both of these backdrops will help set the stage for each iconic scene in the ballet.
The Winter Landscape Backdrop #3242 provides a winter landscape at night with snow-covered mountains and trees.
The Palace of Sweets Backdrop #2544 shows a whimsical palace with frosted cakes inside of candy cane archways.
Want to view more backdrops for the Nutcracker? Check out our full slate of options here.