Almanac: "The Nutcracker"

And now a page from our “Sunday Morning” Almanac: December 18th, 1892, 124 years ago today -- the day “The Nutcracker” by Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky had its world premiere in Saint Petersburg Russia.

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“Snow Flakes” from the 1892 premiere production of “The Nutcracker.”

Mariinsky Ballet

The full “Nutcracker” came to America with the San Francisco Ballet in 1944.

The New York City Ballet under George Balanchine staged its first production in 1954, and went on to perform it right here on CBS on Christmas Day 1958.

Countless other companies over the years have told the timeless story of a wooden nutcracker come to life to lead a triumphant Christmas Eve battle against an oversized Mouse King.

Irine Fokine, daughter of prima ballerina Alexandra Federova (who danced as a child in the original St. Petersburg production), was presiding over her 50th annual local New Jersey production when Bill Geist visited her in 2007, drilling her young cast in the no-nonsense Russian manner.

“They call me ‘The Legend.’ I’m the last of the Fokines,” she said.

Of the holiday tradition, she told Geist, “How could you have Christmas without ‘Nutcracker’?”

We’ve visited many another “Nutcracker” performance over the years -- from the jazz-influenced “Harlem Nutcracker” in 1996, to last year’s Pacific Northwest Ballet production with our own Luke Burbank cast as a mouse for one night only.

On stages large and small -- amateur and professional -- “The Nutcracker” is the Christmas gift that truly keeps on giving.

      
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