Step into an 18th Century dream | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Step into an 18th Century dream

December 28, 2010

Step into an 18th Century dream

When artist Mihail Chemiakin re-imagined the Nutcracker Ballet for the Kirov Ballet, he went back to basics.  The artist created his own vision of the story- incredibly dream-like with fairytale imagery dipped in the style of the 18th century.  There is something magical about the styles of the period and when Chemiakin's characters are suited in it, they take on true personality.

My coworker saw the premier of the ballet in Paris and was so blown away by the sets, characters and stage she had to show me the accompanying book. (thank goodness she did!) I promptly bought my own copy, of Staging the Nutcracker.

The book is a bit of a documentary on Chemiakin as he draws and designs the scenes for his Nutcracker.  Each page features a sketch, drawing or final image of his characters and stage scenes.  It also features a few brief pages by the artist himself, explaining his influences for the new ballet.
"In my version of the Nutcracker I have tried to revive the spirit of Hoffman¹ with Hoffman's characteristic element of grotesque humor, strangeness and transformations, as well as to unite the visual side of the ballet with the musical power and high drama of this work by Tchaikovsky. In some ways I have resurrected the original libretto of Petipa,² which has been deformed and forgotten."

Filled with fancy macaroni's, well dressed rats and other creatures of only the best sort of "dreams" the imagery from Staging the Nutcracker will walk you through the story.  My favorite moment is when the adults enter their dressing room to be dressed for the Christmas Party.  The room is fitted with fabulous wigs for him and her (he has more than she) shoes, hats of all shapes and sizes and frocks.  Such fun!

Shemiakin, Mikhail, and E. T. A. Hoffmann. 2001. Staging "The Nutcracker". New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 9780847823468

Staging the Nutcracker is available from:
Barnes and Nobel

If you pick up the book, let me know what you think! Also, if you have seen the ballet please tell us about it!

¹Author of the Nutcracker, 1816
²The Nutcracker premiered 18 December 1892 on a double bill with Tchaikovsky's opera Iolanta at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre apparently choreographed by Petipa. Many critics of the day considered the work to not even be a ballet at all, with far to much emphasis on spectacle rather than drama (from Wikipedia)


  1. I love the Nutcracker! The characters are so whimsical!!!

  2. Beautiful illustrations. Thank you for sharing with us!

  3. This is a beautiful and whimsical addition to my favorite ballet. Thank you so much for sharing Mihail Chemiakin creations with us :) xoxo, Paulette

  4. This is wonderful & whimsical, I love the Nutcracker, thank you for posting this!

  5. Oh how fabulous! I love how whimsical these are... And the Nutcracker has always been one of my favorites. How inspirational! Thank you for sharing <3

    xoxo coco