Who is behind E.T.A. Hoffmann’s ‘The Snow Maiden’?

Written by By Tamara Palmer, CNN St. Petersburg, Russia A century after E.T.A. Hoffmann’s enigmatic tale was first presented to Victorian London audiences as a Christmas-season classic, it returns to the stage of the…

Who is behind E.T.A. Hoffmann's 'The Snow Maiden'?

Written by By Tamara Palmer, CNN St. Petersburg, Russia

A century after E.T.A. Hoffmann’s enigmatic tale was first presented to Victorian London audiences as a Christmas-season classic, it returns to the stage of the city where it was originally born.

Based on the classic Russian fairytale “The Snow Maiden,” the original production took place in a piano concert hall on the first floor of St. Petersburg’s Choral Theater.

“The Nutcracker”

Nowadays, 15 years after its last performance, the iconic story is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg State Ballet Theatre as part of the St. Petersburg International Ballet Festival, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.

Based on Misha Balanchine’s 1955 ballet “The Nutcracker,” this new version, which will take over the Choral Theater in St. Petersburg this December, places greater emphasis on the use of design elements.

Take a look at photos of the latest adaptation of the original story

“In the past we have used “Nutcracker” with live piano music, but it is even more important this time that you really feel the story is happening within the space with other dancers and other performers,” says artistic director Shuichi Nakamura.

“The whole idea is very enchanting, and there are going to be a lot of elements which really bring to life the language of this story and work in other ways to enhance that.”

A light, airy feel

In addition to the ever-changing number of dancers and musicians performing, the ballet will involve additional design elements that have been created especially for the festival.

“The design element that I liked the most in the original ‘Nutcracker’ ballet was the coldness of the snow… the world is quiet,” says artistic director Nakamura.

“But we realized that it is time to restore the sense of the snow and the season within the stage, and the classical idea of lightness and lightness.

“So for example in the battle scene, if you look closely, you can see these little wooden hut-like things, which have a sort of aesthetic of the Russian countryside and with the snow, the weather become the essence of the piece.

“That is what we’ve tried to establish, and to increase the atmospheric aspect to the piece and to have this lake that you can imagine in the Russian countryside, which if you notice in the past version, is very animated.”

Another new aspect of the staging: a choreographed section in which the dancers appear to float in a lake surrounding the stage.

“It is an intention by the composer and myself to bring forward a much more serene idea when you look at the work,” says Nakamura.

“It is something that is already there, and a kind of poetic connection of emotions that you need to feel when you come to see the ballet.”

Other elements that will definitely be different include the three snowflakes — the snowflakes of pure white — which were no longer used in the original ballet.

In this new version, they will play a large role in the text — possibly giving the piece an ethereal quality that balances out the gloomy scenes.

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