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The Last Nutcracker

The Bolshoi's Nutcracker will be simulcast at the Amherst Theater this Sunday, December 18.

Over the last few weeks classical music lovers and lovers of the dance have had the opportunity to enjoy a half dozen or so live productions of The Nutcracker, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s beloved Christmas ballet, as well as several broadcast versions. So, you might well ask why would anyone want to see yet another? The answer is simple: The taped, high-definition simulcast of The Nutcracker that will be screened at the Amherst Theatre on Sunday, December 18 at 6pm features a new production of the work by the Bolshoi Ballet, one of the best, if not the very best, ballet companies in the world, now celebrating its 236th season, from its home in the newly reopened, renovated Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

The origins of the Bolshoi Ballet company date back to 1776, in masquerades put on during the reign of Catherine the Great. The original theater burned down, but was rebuilt as the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow on the same site in 1825. Another fire devastated the building in 1853, and it suffered German aerial bombing during World War II, compounded by relative neglect during the Soviet era, until the heavily dilapidated structure was closed for a complete renovation six years ago. The total renovation of the theater went way over budget, and was plagued by charges of corruption and several delayed re-openings.

As anyone who has seen one of the three HD simulcast productions from the re-opened theatre this fall can attest, the massive effort was worth it. Not only has the theater been fully restored to its 19th-century magnificence but it has also been retrofitted with state-of-the-art acoustics and one the largest orchestral pits in the world, able to accommodate up to 130 musicians. The entire stage area can also be made either horizontal or inclined, increasing the kinds of productions that can be staged, while a new, huge underground concert hall can be used for smaller productions, as well as rehearsals.

While the newly renovated Bolshoi Theatre is, in a word, fabulous, it’s still the legendary, living dance tradition of the Bolshoi Ballet troupe that draws audiences worldwide. This tradition was no more evident than in the November simulcast of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, featuring the Bolshoi’s prima ballerina, Svetlana Zakharova, in the title role. Her exquisite performance was well matched by that of her partner, the American dancer David Hallberg, the first American dancer invited to become a permanent member of the Bolshoi Ballet, demonstrating to the ballet world that even one of the oldest ballet companies in the world is not afraid to embrace change.

The Bolshoi’s production of The Nutcracker features Nina Kaptsova in the role of Marie and Artem Ovcharenko in the role to the Nutcracker/Prince, and is choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich, with conductor Pavel Klinichev on the podium. Pre-purchase of tickets is strongly recommended to avoid disappointment.

The Amherst Theatre (3500 Main Street, across from UB South Campus) has been specially upgraded to accommodate the Culture in Cinema series. For more information, please visit

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