The Nutcracker: what you didn't know!

​The Nutcracker

For many, it's a Christmas tradition. A family memory shared through the generations where festive memories are made, year in and year out. We are of course, talking about a much-loved ballet, The Nutcracker - but how much do you know really know about the history of the show and it's story? We've taken a trip into Christmas' past to find out the story behind the show that you might not know. 

Whilst most people think of Pytor Tchaikovsky when they think of the creator of The Nutcracker ballet, the original author was actually Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (E. T. A. Hoffmann) a Prussian Romantic author, composer, music critic and artist and it was his novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, that inspired the ballet.  Did you also know that Nutcracker is not Hoffman's only ballet inspiring tale? Coppélia is also based on two other stories that Hoffmann wrote! 

See E.T.A. Hoffmann’s own illustration for Nussknacker und Mausekònig (1816) below. Credit: University of Oldenburg.


The original story around which The Nutcracker you know is based is a little different - Hoffmanns original tale features a seven-headed mouse king and a princess guarded by never sleeping cats! Legend has it that it was in the mid 1800's that Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo) adapted the story on the spot for a young audience - the version that went on to become the famous ballet. 

Read a translation of the original tale, below:

Whilst there are many productions of The Nutcracker, the one you'll see here in Birmingham is a bit special (OK, we may be a bit biased...). The production was actually Sir Peter Wright’s special gift to the city of Birmingham for becoming our new home in 1990, the year that saw us change our name from Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (SWRB) to Birmingham Royal Ballet, and take possession of a brand new custom-built home at Birmingham Hippodrome. The show has since gone on to become one the most popular in the world. 

You can watch a TV spot on the shows premiere from 1990 below. 


Although Tchaikovsky’s score for The Nutcracker is one of the best known pieces of his music, the composer apparently preferred his earlier composition, Sleeping Beauty, not helped by the fact that when the ballet premiered in St. Petersburg it was deemed a failure by critics and audience alike Tchaikovsky died a year after the premiere and would never know the impact this particular piece of work would have on audiences around the world well into the future.

Listen to a song from The Nutcracker score below.

The ballet was first performed outside of Russia in 1934, right here in England. The ballet's first complete United States performance was on 24 December 1944 by San Francisco Opera Ballet under the direction of William Christensen - a mere 4 years after The Disney film Fantasia first featured the music of The Nutcracker Suite.

Watch the music being used in the Fantasia film, below:

Do you know any amazing trivia about The Nutcracker? Drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter or via email to to let us know!