Tag Archives: Jacques Offenbach

Note on “The Nutcracker”

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the following images or video!!

One of my favorite operas is Jacques Offenbach‘s The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d’Hoffmann). This opera is a fantastical retelling of the life of the German Romantic author E. T. A. Hoffmann,  casting Hoffmann as the protagonist of his own stories.

Placido Domingo performing the “Chanson de Kleinzach” aria.

Désirée Rancatore performing “Les oiseaux dans la charmille.”

Through The Tales of Hoffmann, I developed an interest in Hoffmann and his stories, quickly leading me to Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny. In Freud’s essay, he uses many of the same Hoffmann stories as Offenbach, but in this case to prove a psychological point (not that Offenbach’s opera isn’t deeply psychological). If I remember correctly, Freud even mentions Offenbach’s opera.

Portrait of E. T. A. Hoffmann

I’m sure you are all wondering, “What does all this have to do with The Nutcracker?” Well, little do most people know, E. T. A. Hoffmann wrote in 1816 one of the earliest versions of The Nutcracker story, entitled The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Nussknacker und Mausekönig).

Alexandre Dumas was also a fan of Hoffmann, employing allusions to Hoffmann’s stories in The Count of Monte Cristo. Dumas even went as far as creating a revision to Hoffmann’s Nutcracker in 1844 called History of The Nutcracker (Histoire d’un casse-noisette), or The Tale of the Nutcracker.

9780143104834

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Hoffmann’s Nutcracker was adapted to ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, perhaps the most famous incarnation of the tale. I write this post because my dad purchased tickets to the San Francisco Ballet to see The Nutcracker at the end of the month. Perhaps later I’ll add my thoughts on the production to this post.

Tchaikovsky’s music is always wonderful, if not a little too overplayed for the holidays. A lot of people tend to associate The March from The Nutcracker or The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy not with Tchaikovsky, but with the thousands of Christmas commercials that use these pieces. This also happens with The Chinese Tea Dance from The Nutcracker with Disney’s Fantasia and The Sleeping Beauty Waltz with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

I believe the most creative and exciting production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut. The Hard Nut is set in 1950s America with a very retro feel inspired by the comic artist Charles Burns — a strange but brilliant compliment to the classical music. I hope to one day be able to attend a live performance.

Advertisement for The Hard Nut.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


Brainstorming

Ideas for future projects…

The following is a list of various works (literature, poetry, art, etc.) that have influenced me and may influence new projects in the future, as well as ideas that have been churning around in my head.

Also, this is a sort of semi-reading list for books I would like to read and re-read. Some advice for anyone interested in reading these books: Project Gutenberg, Bartleby.com, etc. are WONDERFUL for literature written in English. But if you are interested in Dumas, Hoffmann, Pushkin, or any other author who did not write in English, I would highly recommend Penguin Classics — their English translations are always BRILLIANT (although the very best, of course, is to read a work in its original language — for instance, I happen to hate Dazai Osamu and Yoshimoto Banana translated [no offense to the translators, it's not their fault], but I absolutely love them in the original Japanese)!!

In no particular order…

  • Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin: about to read.
  • The Tales of Hoffmann by E.T.A. Hoffmann: must read.
  • The Moonstone, etc. by Wilkie Collins: must re-read/read.
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri: have read.
  • The works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: have read/must read.
  • Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther and his friend Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem: have read/would like to continue to research.
  • Philipp Otto Runge, Romantic German painter: have researched.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, The Black Tulip, etc. by Alexandre Dumas: have read.
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson: must read.
  • Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey: must read.
  • John Singer Sargent and the Portrait of Madame X: have seen at the Met/must research.
  • Lord Byron (“The Limping Devil”), Mary Shelley, and Percy Bysshe Shelley — the origins of Frankenstein: have read/must research.
  • Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: have researched/would like to continue to research.
  • Franz Liszt (as a young piano teacher): would like to continue to research.
  • Béla Bartók (and his research into folk music): would like to continue to research.
  • David Popper (Bohemian cellist and my all-time favorite composer): need to find more information about him!
  • The Love of Don Perlimplín and Belisa in the Garden by Federico García Lorca: have read.
  • A Supermarket in California by Allen Ginsberg: have read.
  • The works of Christopher Isherwood: have read.
  • The Quiet American and The Third Man by Graham Greene: love movies/must read.
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardener by John le Carré: love movies/must read.
  • Hollywood stars like Barbara Stanwyck, Mary Pickford, Sessue Hayakawa, etc.
  • The Stones Cry Out by Okuizumi Hikaru: have read.
  • The works of Dazai Osamu: have read/must read.
  • The works of Ibuse Masuji: must read.
  • The works of Mishima Yukio: have read.
  • The works of Kenzaburo Oe: have read.
  • Okinawan literature: have read.
  • Nikola Tesla, Serbian-American inventor: have researched.
  • Hendrik Goltzius, the Dutch engraver: have researched/would like to continue to research.
  • Morris Louis, American Color Field painter: have researched/would like to continue to research.
  • Jean Cocteau, French filmmaker: would like to research.
  • Philippe Halsman, Latvian-born American photographer: would like to research.
  • The operas of Jacques Offenbach, Giuseppe Verdi, Georges Bizet, Giacomo Puccini, etc.
  • …?
To be continued…!

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For more updates, don’t forget to follow me on tumblr and/or twitter.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


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