The story is set in Vienna in the middle of the nineteenth century. Herr Silberhaus and his wife, along with their children, Clara and Fritz, celebrate the holiday festivities with friends and family. During this Christmas Eve night, the guests and their children rejoice in the magical Christmas atmosphere that Herr Drosselmeyer, Clara’s godfather, brings to the Silberhaus home. He fills the festivities with magical entertainment, dancing dolls, and toys for the children. Herr Drosselmeyer has a special surprise for Clara, a Nutcracker doll. Overjoyed, Clara dances with her new Nutcracker, but her jealous brother, Fritz, damages the Nutcracker. Herr Drosselmeyer fixes it with his magic powers, and after one final dance, the guests leave.
That night, Clara falls into a deep sleep but is woken by giant mice that menace and threaten her. Herr Drosselmeyer protects her and helps her escape. She finds herself back in the living room where, to her amazement, the Christmas tree grows to giant size, and she is in the midst of a huge battle between an army of tin soldiers and the mice. The Nutcracker doll comes to life and duels with the King Mouse. The Nutcracker ultimately rescues Clara from the King Mouse, whom she distracts by throwing her slipper, thus saving herself from his clutches. Herr Drosselmeyer takes Clara on the first part of a magical journey, the first stop of which is the Land of Snow, presided over by the Snow Queen and her Cavalier.
Herr Drosselmeyer then takes Clara to the Land of Sweets, where she is met by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her court of angels. Clara recounts her story of battle with the King Mouse. As a reward, the Sugar Plum Fairy performs her famous dance for Clara and invites her to stay and watch while she is entertained by the many Divertissements who inhabit her kingdom.
Michael Vernon is chair emeritus of the Ballet Department and professor of ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music. He studied at the Royal Ballet School in London with Dame Ninette de Valois and Leonide Massine. He performed with The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera Ballet, and the London Festival Ballet before moving to New York in 1976 to join the Eglevsky Ballet as ballet master and resident choreographer under the directorship of Edward Villella. Vernon served as artistic director of the company from 1989 to 1996. He has choreographed for the Eglevsky Ballet, BalletMet, and North Carolina Dance Theatre, and Mikhail Baryshnikov commissioned him to choreograph the pas de deux In a Country Garden for American Ballet Theatre (ABT). Vernon’s solo S’Wonderful was danced by ABT principal Cynthia Harvey in the presence of President and Mrs. Reagan and shown nationwide on CBS television. Vernon served as the assistant choreographer on Ken Russell’s movie Valentino, starring Rudolph Nureyev and Leslie Caron. Vernon has taught at Steps on Broadway (New York City) since 1980 and been a company teacher for American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He has been involved with the Ballet Program of the Chautauqua Institution since 1996 and is the artistic advisor for the Ballet School of Stamford. He is permanent guest teacher at the Manhattan Youth Ballet and has a long association with Ballet Hawaii. For Indiana University, Vernon has choreographed Endless Night, Jeux, Spectre de la Rose, and Cathedral, and has staged and provided additional choreography for the full-length classics Swan Lake and TheSleeping Beauty. He has choreographed for many IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater productions, such as Faust and the world premiere of Vincent.
Music director of the Oviedo Philharmonic (OFIL) from 2011 to 2017, Marzio Conti received recognition and the acclaim of audiences and critics for his achievements in guiding the growth of the orchestra to new artistic heights, notably with OFIL’s recordings of the complete symphonic works of Saint-Saëns for Warner Classics. Conti has earned numerous awards and has been named a juror for the arts prize of the prestigious Premios Asturias. Among his generation’s leading exponents of the flute, Conti performed with major orchestras and made numerous recordings through the mid-1990s, after which he devoted himself to conducting. A student of Piero Bellugi, Conti quickly received engagements as a permanent director of various Italian and foreign orchestras. He conducts both opera and the symphonic repertoire and collaborates with leading international dance companies as well as major soloists. Conti has appeared as a guest conductor throughout Europe at such notable venues as the Rome Opera, Theater Dortmund, and London’s Wigmore Hall. He has conducted numerous orchestras, including Orchestra Haydn, Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, Brandenburger Symphoniker, Korean National Symphony Orchestra, and Haifa Symphony Orchestra (Israel), to name a few. He has collaborated with a host of soloists, including Barbara Hendricks, Bryn Terfel, Misha Maisky, Midori, Lin Harrell, Sabine Meyer, and Jean-Pierre Rampal. Through recordings, broadcast media, and live performance, Conti has worked to develop the profile and quality of several institutions. Before his work with OFIL, he was principal conductor at the Istituzione Sinfonica Abruzzese (1998-2002), music director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Turin (2001-04), music director of the Teatro di Tradizione per l’Opera Italiana of Chieti (2003-08), and artistic director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Sanremo (2004-10). When he stepped down as OFIL’s music director, the city of Oviedo awarded Conti the Gold Medal of the Auditorium Prince Felipe in recognition of his extraordinary contributions. Since 2014, he has collaborated as guest conductor and visiting professor with the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
Born in Bloomington, Indiana, and raised not two blocks from campus, C. David Higgins started his theatrical studies at IU intent on becoming an actor/dancer before he discovered his love for scenic design. He studied with the famous C. Mario Cristini and became proficient in the Romantic-Realist style of scenic design and painting. After earning his master’s degree, Higgins joined the staff of Indiana University Opera Theater and worked as master scenic artist from the time the Musical Arts Center opened in 1971 until his retirement in December 2011. He was appointed to the faculty in 1976 and served as chair of the Opera Studies Department and principal designer for Opera Theater. His design credits throughout the United States include the San Antonio Festival, Memphis Opera, Norfolk Opera, Louisville Opera, Detroit Symphony, Canton Ballet, and Sarasota Ballet as well as many other venues. His Indiana University productions have been seen throughout North America as rentals by major regional opera companies. His many international credits include the Icelandic National Theater; Ballet San Juan de Puerto Rico; Korean National Opera; Seoul City Opera; Korean National Ballet; Dorset Opera (England); Teatro la Paz de Belém, Brazil; and the Teatro National de São Paulo, Brazil. He has designed the scenery for the world premiere of Our Town (Ned Rorem), the American premieres of Jeppe (Sandström) and The Devils of Loudun (Penderecki), and the collegiate premieres of Nixon in China (Adams) and The Ghosts of Versailles (Corigliano) as well as many other operas and ballets. Known for his Italianate painting style, Opera News magazine has referred to Higgins as one today’s finest American scenic artists.
Alice Trent is lighting supervisor at the IU Jacobs School of Music. She has designed extensively throughout the Midwest and South, and has worked as an assistant lighting designer at the Cleveland Play House, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The Drama League, and Town Hall Arts Center of Denver. She received the 2019 Barbizon Lighting Company Jonathan Resnick Lighting Design Award and the 2019 Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) Spiegel Theatrical Artist Award. Trent placed first in the 2019 SETC Projection Design Competition for her work on King Charles III and was a 2020 Gilbert Hemsley Internship Program Finalist. She earned an M.F.A. in Lighting and Digital Media Design from the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
Christian Claessens is lecturer in ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music. He began his ballet training at the Conservatoire de la Monaie. In 1978, he came to New York on scholarship to the School of American Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre School. After graduating, he performed with the Kansas City Ballet and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. In 1984, he returned to Europe as a member of the Dutch National Ballet. As a soloist, Claessens toured internationally with Stars of the American Ballet, Stars of the New York City Ballet, Stars of the Hong Kong Ballet, and Kozlov and Friends. In 1991, he cofounded the Scarsdale Ballet Studio with Diana White. In 1999, he codirected the International Ballet Project with Valentina Kozlova and White, both of New York City Ballet. In 1998, he took over the directorship of the Purchase Youth Ballet. He was the director of La Leçon: Christian Claessens School of Ballet in Westchester, New York.
Sasha Janes is associate professor of ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music. He was born in Perth, Australia, and received his formal dance training from the Australian Ballet School. He has danced professionally with West Australian Ballet, Australian Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, and Dayton Ballet, performing principal roles in works by Jiří Kylián, George Balanchine, Nacho Duato, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Marius Petipa, Septime Webre, Anthony Tudor, Dwight Rhoden, Alonzo King, Twyla Tharp, Alvin Ailey, and many others. At the invitation of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and associate artistic director Patricia McBride, Janes joined Charlotte Ballet in 2003. In 2006, he was commissioned to choreograph his first ballet, Lascia la Spina, Cogli la Rosa, and has since choreographed several ballets for Charlotte Ballet, including Carmen, Dangerous Liaisons, We Danced Through Life, Last Lost Chance, Shelter, At First Sight, Loss, The Four Seasons, The Red Dress, Utopia, Playground Teasers, The Seed and the Soil, Chaconne, Queen, Sketches from Grace, and Rhapsodic Dances, which was performed as part of the Kennedy Center’s Ballet Across America series in June 2013. The Washington Post called Janes “a choreographer to watch.” He was a participant in New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute and has been a guest choreographer for Richmond Ballet’s New Works Festival. He was a principal dancer with Charlotte Ballet for eight seasons before being named rehearsal director in 2007 then associate artistic director in 2012 and adding the title resident choreographer in 2013. In fall 2016, Janes premiered his ballet Saudade for the Jacobs School of Music, where he served as guest faculty. In spring 2017, he premiered his Wuthering Heights for Charlotte Ballet, inspired by Emily Bronte’s classic novel. In fall 2020, he premiered the first two movements of 19 at the Jacobs School.
Carla Körbes is professor of ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music. Körbes was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and began training at the age of five. In 1996, Peter Boal encouraged her to come to the United States to study at the School of American Ballet. She joined New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 1999 and was made a member of the corps de ballet in 2000. She was promoted to soloist in 2005 and joined Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) as a soloist later that year. She was promoted to principal dancer at PNB in 2006 and retired from the company in 2015. Körbes danced numerous ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Christopher Wheeldon, William Forsythe, Alexei Ratmansky, and Twyla Tharp, and performed classical works including Swan Lake, Giselle, and Don Quixote. Before joining the Jacobs School of Music faculty, Körbes served as associate director of the L. A. Dance Project and taught at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. (Photo by Patrick Fraser)
Kyra Nichols is professor of ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music, where she holds the Violette Verdy and Kathy Ziliak Anderson Chair in Ballet. Nichols began her early training with her mother, Sally Streets, a former member of New York City Ballet (NYCB). Nichols became an apprentice and then a member of the corps de ballet at NYCB in 1974 and was promoted to soloist in 1978. In 1979, George Balanchine promoted her to principal dancer, and she worked closely with both Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. She performed numerous leading roles in the NYCB repertoire, including Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto Number 2, Stars and Stripes, Liebeslieder Walzer, and Davidsbündlertänze. She has worked with an extensive list of choreographers, including William Forsythe, Susan Stroman, Christopher Wheeldon, Jacques D’Amboise, Robert La Fosse, and Robert Garland. Nichols retired from New York City Ballet in June 2007 after 33 years with the company, the longest-serving principal dancer in the company’s history. Immediately prior to joining the Jacobs School, she was ballet mistress at Pennsylvania Ballet.
Sarah Wroth is chair of the Ballet Department and associate professor of ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music. She began her training at the Frederick School of Classical Ballet in Frederick, Maryland. In 2003, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Ballet Performance with an Outside Field in Education from the Jacobs School of Music. That same year, she joined Boston Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet. With the company, Wroth performed principal roles in works by William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Marius Petipa, Jerome Robbins, Helen Pickett, and Mikko Nissinen, and soloist roles in ballets by Sir Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, and August Bournonville. She has performed with Boston Ballet internationally in Spain, England, South Korea, and Finland. In 2009, she was awarded the E. Virginia Williams Inspiration Award for her unwavering dedication to ballet and the Boston Ballet Company. Wroth earned a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University in 2015 and retired from Boston Ballet in May 2017.
Rebecca Janes is an adjunct faculty member at the IU Jacobs School of Music. After a professional career spanning 20 years, dancing principal roles by George Balanchine, Alonzo King, Dwight Rhoden, Nacho Duato, Marius Petipa, Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharp, Anthony Tudor, and Sasha Janes, she moved to Bloomington with her family. Before coming to Bloomington, Janes was part of the senior ballet faculty at Charlotte Ballet Academy. She has been teaching for nine years and is also on faculty at the Chautauqua Institution in New York.
Irina Ter-Grigoryan earned her degrees of piano performance, pedagogy, and accompaniment in the former Soviet Union. She served as a faculty member at the Baku State Conservatory and as an accompanist for the Azerbaijan State Theater Opera and Ballet. She was selected from a small pool of musicians to accompany international and regional competitions representing the Soviet Union. During her time in the United States, she has continued her work as an accompanist with the Temple Square Concert Series Recitals in Salt Lake City, Utah; University of Utah; and Ballet West Co.; and as a collaborative pianist at DePauw University. She currently holds the position of accompanist and music director with the IU Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department.