Flourishing his sword in the air, the Nutcracker cried aloud, “Crack—crack—crack—stupid pack—drive mouse back—stupid pack—crack—crack—mouse—back—crick—crack—stupid pack.”[note]E. T. A. Hoffman, Nutcracker and Mouse-King, trans. Mrs. St. Simon, (New York, 1953) 36. Viewed online at American Libraries archive.org.[/note] In the beginning, in the words of E. T. A. Hoffmann, there was a “hateful” Mouse-King with fourteen eyes and seven heads who gnawed with sharp teeth at the gingerbread and sugar-plums. In the beginning there was a Mouse-King and his ragged army to defeat. A dancing cast, there on the page, their actions written as sounds, ripe for musical translation and, arguably, the makings of a timeless ballet. And though Tchaikovsky when invited to compose the score for “The Nutcracker” found the story to be poorly suited to a ballet, commenting that “these images do not gladden, do not excite inspiration but frighten, horrify and pursue me, waking and sleeping, mocking me with the thought that I shall not cope with them,”[note]Mark Carroll, “Music Note,” The Nutcracker programme (Melbourne: The Australian Ballet, 2014).[/note] “The Nutcracker” in its many guises remains a Christmas favourite.
Benedicte Bemet in Peter Wright's “The Nutcracker.” Photograph by Jeff Busby