Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, a Christmas classic, arrives at the Liceu with the version by Kader Belarbi and the ballet from the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse

The Nutcracker is the story of an incontestable work of classical ballet. Starting from the initial version created by Màrius Petipa in Saint Petersburg in 1892, many choreographers have approached the subject creating more modern and iconoclastic versions.

Director Kader Belarbi gives free reign to his imagination to give the traditional version a boost of vitality. Preserving the magic of the Christmas story and portraying the paradise of children and their dreams, his proposal is inspired by the films of Méliès.


The Choir and Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, under the direction of Marius Stieghorst, will bring to life one of the most famous scores by composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, full of energy and tremendous melodic freshness.


The immortal theme of love, the struggle of forces between evil and beauty, the magical sets, the sumptuous costumes and an indisputable variety of dances make this ballet an unmissable show and an invitation to escape from the real world and let yourself be carried away by Dreams.


The Nutcracker can be seen from December 28 to January 4 at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in six performances.


One of the classic titles of Christmas, The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, takes over the Gran Teatre del Liceu with the Ballet of the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse from December 28 to January 4, in a total of 6 performances. True musical symbol and one of the composer’s most popular scores, many of his numbers are hymns for posterity: the “Waltz of the flowers”, the “Trepak”, “Sugar Fairy”, among others. Directed by maestro Marius Stieghorst, the Choir and Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu will be in charge of giving life to a score full of energy and formidable melodic freshness.


Premiered on December 18, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg, The Nutcracker is the third great ballet to emerge from the fruitful relationship between Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Màrius Petipà, along with their eternal collaborator Lev Ivanov. The previous two had previously signed Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Inspired by a story by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (1816), Petipà, author of the libretto, based himself on the free translation that Alexandre Dumas had written to create a fable with a great festive show, full of wonders, fantasy and love. Since then, The Nutcracker has lived through numerous versions. Some of the best known are those by John Cranko (1967), also very popular today, and Rudolf Nuréiev’s, premiered in Stockholm in 1968, where Drosselmeyer becomes the protagonist in the double role of godfather and prince, and is This is the version that has become popular later.


Now at the Liceu comes the proposal by Kader Belarbi, considered one of the leading representatives of the so-called “Nureev generation”. Star dancer of the Paris Opera Ballet until 2008, an institution in which he also trained, Belarbi is the heir, and has shown it, of Rudolf Nuréiev’s way of understanding dance, both technically and artistically. It is not surprising, then, that his shows look for the spectacular nature and greatness that the legendary dancer brought to the company from the French capital while he was its director (1983-1989).


When Kader Belarbi took over the direction of the ballet at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse in 2012, he was already a well-known international choreographer. In these almost ten years, the director and choreographer has nurtured the company with a constant dialogue between different arts, periods and styles. Classical dance is not at odds with contemporary, nor is it with neoclassical, in a bid to eliminate stagnant labels. Thus, among the ballet repertoire of the Théâtre du Capitole, we can find great works of the classical repertoire, with the requirement that respect for tradition imposes, but also more personal return visits and works of new creation.


Among these revisits is The Nutcracker of Belarbi. For Christmas 2017, the choreographer created a new production of this ballet as a forceful statement of intent on the power, beauty and relevance of classical ballet. Taking Hoffmann’s original story, darker and more psychological, Belarbi turns Drosselmeyer into a double character, as Nureyev did. But if in that case the protagonist was a godfather and prince, in Belarbi’s he becomes the director of a boarding school, a magician who creates and destroys real and imaginary worlds. Although the story is transformed a bit, the spirit of The Nutcracker remains intact.


The first act takes place in a closed world, that of a boarding school that makes us think of the movies of the forties and fifties, a dark space in gray tones, a black and white world full of prohibitions, that denies individuality, fun and spontaneity. In this Nutcracker, the night before Christmas, some children drop out of boarding school with their parents, while the orphans take comfort in gifts from Drosselmeyer. Among the toys delivered, our heroine, Marie, receives a nutcracker in the shape of a tin soldier. As in the original version, the toys will come to life and live their lives. The children themselves will become animated toys. Christmas gifts are the occasion for children to open the doors of dreams and abandon the sadness of everyday life by immersing themselves in a dream world where toys come to life and help them face night fears and prohibitions, to experience new emotions and to share proofs of courage in a wonderful world.


In this dreamlike journey, Belarbi brings together three fellow adventurers: Antoine Fontaine for the sets, Philippe Guillotel for the costumes and Hervé Gary for the lighting design. The three have created a fantastic world, with a very French aesthetic, between the cabaret and the circus, which are already part of their language. But they are also inspired by the imaginary of their own childhood: Marie is a girl with red hair and the appearance and character of Pippi Longstocking who creates the Five Club, reminiscent of Enid Blyton’s youth adventure novels, and the original mice are here spiders in a transformation inspired by the spider Aragog from Harry Potter. Other transgressions are the conversion of Spanish dancers into frogs, the huge Michelin-style puffy dresses of Arab dance, the nine dancers that make up a massive caterpillar, the Soviet factory…


Everything happens in a colorful universe, an enchanted forest with fantastic plants that, in fact, are boxes that open like in a drop-down story for each dance: Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian dance… After living A thousand and one adventures, Marie and her five friends will arrive in the Snow Kingdom, inhabited by Santa Claus and the Queen of Snowflakes, who will be kind enough to restore the nutcracker’s arm that the evil spider queen had ripped off in the first act.


In reality, or in the world of dreams, all these fantastic trips of the second act are a quest to find the missing arm. And it is also during these pilgrimages that Marie matures into a woman who falls in love with her. All this symbolic world reaches its climax with the metamorphosis of the nutcracker and Marie into a prince and a princess, at which time Belarbi returns to the purest academicism in the great final two-step that includes the purest tradition of classical ballet.


The immortal theme of love, the struggle of forces between evil and beauty, the magical sets, the sumptuous costumes and an indisputable variety of dances make this ballet an unmissable show and an invitation to escape from the real world and let yourself be carried away by Dreams.


Kader Belarbi


After training at the École de danse de l’Opéra de Paris, in 1980 he entered the principal ballet. In 1989 he gained industry attention by becoming the principal dancer in the ballet Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by Rudolf Nureiev. Nineteen years later, he bid farewell to the Paris Opera Ballet with Carolyn Carlson’s Signes. Open to all styles, he has performed ballets from the Paris Opera repertoire, as well as contemporary dance. Since 2012 he has been the dance director of the Théâtre du Capitole. As a choreographer he has signed more than forty ballets.


Ballet of the Theater du Capitole


The current artistic project of the ballet, directed by Kader Belarbi, is to provide the ballet with a broad classical repertoire and open the company by diversifying its repertoires, but also to promote the expansion of its audience, its inclusion in the region and its international influence. . Tradition and modernity sum up the vocation of the Ballet du Capitole. With 35 dancers from 12 different nationalities, it offers, season after season, the reflection of a living ballet, in tune with the times, open to everyone.


Recently, the Théâtre du Capitole has received a national seal from the French Government’s Ministry of Culture, for which it has been designated ‘Opéra Nacional’.


Marius Stighorst


He is currently the director of the Orléans Symphonique Orchestra, a position he has held since 2014. In addition, in 2019 he was appointed professor at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg (Germany). Between 2009 and 2019 he was assistant director of the Opéra National de Paris, among others. He studied piano and composition in Karlsruhe, later obtaining scholarships from the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes foundation and the Bayreuth Wagner Association. Between the years 2001 and 2004 he was the second Kapellmeister of Graz.


Changes in capacity


As of The Nutcracker, the Gran Teatre del Liceu reduces its capacity to 70%, applying the new health measures recently announced by the Government of the Gealitat de Catalunya.


To comply with the established limit, the sale of the performances of The Nutcracker (except on December 30 and January 3) and Javier Camarena’s recital have been closed because they already have a full capacity. In the case of those functions that exceed 70%, the Liceu cancels reservations pending confirmation to prioritize the public that has purchased a ticket. On these specific days that the current occupation exceeds the new permitted limit, adjustments will also be made to maintain the capacity at 70%. The Liceu is studying the possibility of offering those spectators with locations with low visibility a change of day with locations with higher visibility.


All those spectators who cannot attend a function for reasons related to the pandemic, the Liceu makes available a gift voucher that can be exchanged for any show programmed by the Gran Teatre del Liceu with available seats.