A Holiday Favorite Made New

by Danilo Brunetti

This is The Nutcracker as you’ve never seen it before. Tiffany Parks shares her review

After a silent and shuttered Christmas at Rome’s premier opera company in 2020, this year the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma is celebrating the holidays in style with a dazzling performance of the world’s best-loved Christmas ballet: The Nutcracker. But if you assume you’ve seen it all before, think again. This original Teatro dell’Opera production is a fresh and modern take on Tchaicovsky’s beloved classic.

Visionary director and choreographer Giuliano Peparini has reinterpreted the ballet in a contemporary style with a strong theatrical slant. While some more modern stagings of ballet can be jarring and uncomfortable, retaining almost none of the beauty of the original, Peparini’s Nutcracker strikes the perfect balance between innovative and familiar. The characters are the same we know and love, dancers are en pointe, and the choreography is strictly classical, but Peparini has adapted Hoffmann’s story slightly to suit his flawless vision. Costumes (by Frédéric Olivier) have an edgier feel (think dancers in tuxedos and 1950s-style ball gowns), matadors take the place of the Spanish dancer, and the Dance of the Reed Flutes looks like a scene from Versailles. Numerous comic moments and a surprising sensuality between the lead performers keeps the audience enthralled. Add that to the stage design by Lucia D’Angelo and Cristina Querzola, sometimes stark, sometimes dramatic, and often with a slightly industrial feel, and the ingenious lighting design by Jean-Michel Désiré, and the result is a Nutcracker that feels more vibrant, more seductive, and more authentic than ever. 

This staging debuted at Rome’s Teatro Costanzi in December of 2015 to immediate success and critical acclaim. Alessio Rezza, Claudio Cocino, and Susanna Salvi are just a few of the principal dancers interpreting the lead roles, and Maestro Nir Kabaretti is at the podium.

Runs from 19 Dec to 2 Jan. Teatro Costanzi. operaroma.it