PC Nutcracker

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S (the best dancer at one of the schools I go to… or went to, before the car accident) took me to Ballet BC & Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s last Nutcracker (on tour) of the season.

There’s lots to like about the production:

  1. RWB is a little different each year. This year’s Nutcracker takes place in 1910s Canada and includes hockey, people falling on icy sidewalks, and polar bears. So Canadian;
  2. Soft colours and fine painted details make lovely, realistic costumes and storybook backdrops;
  3. Makeup & costumes look good on the non-white dancers, too, and the “multicultural” bits are more balletic and less racist than most! (Incidentally, the Arabian costumes should’ve been First Nations);
  4. No more bear baiting or obvious favouritism among the kids. A bear comes into the house for food. So, so Canadian.

Conversely:

  1. S feels the 1930s opening is pointless if the Kingdom of Sweets is just business as usual;
  2. Smallest mice look like clones of Disney’s Goofy (same face and colour and all) while the Mouse King looks like a dog-headed man;
  3. Chinese/tea dancer still has double buns, arms forming permanent Ls, and hands fused in gesturing “1”s. At this point she may as well be using those fingers to push up the corners of her eyes, she’s such a stereotype;
  4. All the angels are blonde!… you want me to say. Actually, the wigs are so metallic gold I don’t give a damn.

No one was spectacularly good or bad, which perhaps makes for better holiday viewing than placing awesome virtuoso dancers alongside people who fall out of jumps. The choreography was too safe, though, wasn’t it?

nutcracker_5
Photo from RWB, since my curtain call photo failed

On a side note, we sat dead centre in the lower balcony (as mentioned before, S has high standards for everything ballet). The view would’ve been perfect if the mother and child in front and two women another row down didn’t lean forward the entire time. Behind them, to S’s left, a man with a wedge-shaped head started playing with his little phone in the middle of Act I. After I asked him to turn it off, he squirmed and rustled wrappers for over an hour. S says she was afraid he was going to attack me, but he merely threw a fit from a safe distance at the end before running away.

If you think not being racist is being too PC, you wouldn’t like this production. Otherwise, you can still catch the RWB Nutcracker in Winnipeg later in December.

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The Healthy-Sized Lady Sings

If you haven’t heard, Vancouver Opera is giving up on regular productions and switching to a “festival” format in 2017. This seems to be a cheerful way of saying it will put on fewer productions, at venues smaller than Queen Elizabeth Theatre, over a week or two each year and spend the rest of its time dabbling in smaller projects that aren’t putting on operas.

So the issue might not be customer service-related, but I did guess at VO’s financial troubles as it loosened restrictions for youth discounts — which, incidentally, I’ve never used — put on more and more operas that are new (read: unknown) or not even operas (Sweeney Todd etc.), and asked me to resubscribe, after ignoring me the previous season.

Grudges aside, this is sad news for local arts, sadder than when Ballet BC overcame bankruptcy only to abandon everything classical in its repertoire… unless you count The Nutcracker, which features borrowed dancers from Royal Winnipeg Ballet or Alberta Ballet.

It’s not Thursday, but this is worth a (worthless) TBT:

Opera 2005
Digital camera technology of the early 2000s, yo

The above was taken before my first live opera, VO’s production of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, circa 2005. It was a great experience.

On the way out, though, some elderly women loudly criticised my choice of footwear. (Come on, those were some awesome suede boots!) Maybe there’s something to be said for bringing in a younger audience after all.

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*Before you complain, I know VO isn’t dead. But its heyday might have passed into history like the willowy limbs of my 20-year-old self (see above).