Left – Amelia Soh and Natasha Kusen. Cover – Artists of The Australian Ballet. Photos – Daniel Boud
The Story of Clara is an incredible journey in the life of a Russian ballerina (with an Aussie twist) under a sweeping Nutcracker backdrop. The stunning choreography in this epic tale weaves together a life story, punctured with historical events that carry a weight of emotion. The Australian Ballet has again produced a unique contemporary take on a much beloved classical ballet.
With concept by Graeme Murphy and Kristian Fredrikson, it all begins, not with the prima ballerinas in action, but with a group of older Russian friends who meet for a Christmas dinner at Clara’s home in Australia. They drink and dance (incredibly well) while an elderly Clara reminisces on her life and experiences. The set is stunning with a staircase that leads into Clara’s bedroom. Through movement (and some sneaky comical dialogue) it appears that her bed beckons her. She concludes the evening dressed in her nightgown with the help of her friends and a doctor by her side. It is then that her dreams, and past, come to life.
The production then goes from strength to strength with incredible staging, costumes, and of course – that stunning, familiar music. Chief Conductor and Music Director, Nicolette Fraillon, led the orchestra beautifully and really set the mood for each location and experience. Although the transition from set to set was, at times, a little clunky, the performance really took advantage of all forms of media including projections, sheer screens, clever props, and mammoth set pieces.
Leanne Stojmenov was the real star of the production, playing Clara the Ballerina (with honourable mentions to Ai-Gul Gaisina as Clara the Elder and Amelia Soh as Clara the Child). Stojmenov is incredible to watch, a flawless talent. She lit up the stage and perfectly expressed the sheer joy of the ballet and the deep sorrow of losing someone you love. Even though the focus tends to be on the body of the ballerina, Stojmenov carried a lot of emotion in her face, which indeed was felt by the audience, and was reflected powerfully through her movement.
The journey moves from Australia, to Russia, Spain, Egypt and back again. One minute you’re consumed by the sugar plum fairy, pretty snowflakes, and oversized babushka doll, and the next you are faced with the harsh realities of the pain and suffering of war. Nutcracker – The Story of Clara is an epic visual feast, a unique blending of reality and fantasy.
The Australian Ballet presents
Nutcracker – The Story of Clara
Choreography Graeme Murphy
Venue: Sydney Opera House
Dates: 2 – 20 May 2017
Tickets: from $43