The Nutcracker: bougie beauty

My mother loved opera, I like opera.  I love ballet, she liked ballet. Complementary tastes, with plenty of overlap.

In the last 5 years of her life, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City began its Met: Live in HD program, broadcasting operas, in real time, across select movie theaters across North America for prices ranging from $20-$40 – a steal! Since its inception, the Met: Live in HD program has been wildly popular, periodically selling out in participating movie theaters, with encore performances not uncommon.

For my mother, her failing health preventing her from travelling (she only ever took a plane once, to visit her brother in Boston), this was a true blessing as it gave her access to a breadth and quality of live opera performances she never would have experienced otherwise – the Met is one of the best opera companies in the world, light-years ahead of our local company in Montreal.

She frequently invited me to join her at these performances, hopeful for one of our rare girly excursions. I never once attended with her; I was always too busy, it never quite suited me, I was tired, it wasn’t my favorite piece… the list of excuses was endless. She would attend instead with some of her friends, or alone, or occasionally with my father, despite his not being overly keen on opera. The first time he did attend, he was the only male in the audience, and he wept from the sheer beauty of the music, and several old doddering ladies nodded approvingly at him and my mother. She never complained at my busy schedule, and until her unexpected end, she continued to invite me, despite my string of refusals.

Holidays: a bittersweet dynamic

That pretty much sums up how I feel about the holidays. Bittersweet, with a healthy dose of bitter, spiced with regrets. Holiday season is always a bewildering mix of joyful feelings that somehow squeeze your heart painfully and make you want to cry without always successfully pinpointing the exact cause.

That is why Tchaikovsky’s score for the Nutcracker is the perfect musical fit for the Holiday season. The Nutcracker, a fairy tale about a fantastic dream in Wonderland that eventually comes to an end, has moments of breathtaking beauty that are tinged throughout with melancholy. I never understood why Tchaikovsky included sadness in the music for a kid’s fairy tale, until I realised that the story, stripped of its flashy choreography and distractions, is actually about a girl’s first crush coming to an end. By the end of the ballet, Clara is one step closer to adulthood, and with that step comes a loss of innocence – no matter how glorious her journey, that awakening from a childhood dream is a sad thing. Tchaikovsky is brilliant.

No Christmas season is complete unless I listen to the Nutcracker’s score ad-nauseum; its complex tapestry of emotion counteracts the glib joy of Christmas carols, and lends magnificence to the occasion.

From the comfort of your home: bougie ballet

I told Nene that I was attending today a live broadcast of the Bolshoi ballet performing the Nutcracker: similar concept to the Met: Live in HD, except with ballet, not opera, and not in HD. He told me that was a bougie activity, short for bourgeoisie (new gangsta word! My vocabulary keeps expanding, yippee!).

I have no counter-argument against Nene’s assertion of bougie ballet-love.

So instead, I leave you with a link to Baryshnikov’s version of the Nutcracker – a version I watched with my mother almost every Christmas, on the couch, eating chocolate chip cookies, waiting for Santa to drop by. Yes, the same Baryshnikov that was in the last season of Sex and the City. One of ballet’s greats. Just look at his jumps!!! He soars. Beautiful and athletically impressive. (Yes, yes, I realise that SATC is about as bougie as it gets.)

P.S. I just watched most of it, and I am pretty sure the part from 13:51 to 15:00 negates any possible “ballet is not bougie” arguments. Oye. That part is not ok!

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