Saturday, December 15, 2007
On Wednesday we went to opening night of Joffrey Ballet of Chicago's Nutcracker. It was the 20th anniversary show. (The Joffrey, by the way, is the dance organization featured in the Robert Altman documentary, The Company. They moved to Chicago in 1995).
My expectations were low - I've seen The Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre (overrated) and the Ruth Page version of the Nutcracker with my mother and grandmother at the Arie Crown Theatre way-back-when. I remember not a single thing about the performance - except that we managed to find the place, which was 1.5 hours from our town, and that we weren't late.
But I was excited because the Joffrey version is being performed at the exquisite, acoustically perfect, Louis Sullvian-designed Auditorium Theatre. Previously I'd seen Frank Zappa and Sonu Nigam perform there (not at the same time, thankfully). I also saw a Philip Glass opera. But never a ballet (I don't understand ballet).
When we arrived in the lobby, we heard the dulcet tones of a really terrific children's choir, singing an ethereal version of "Winter Wonderland" - my favorite holiday carol.
There was electricity in the air (and not just the static kind). Everyone was dressed in their best clothes, and we spent many happy moments listening to the choir and watching everyone make their entrance.
It was like a parade of too-cute Princesses and Fauntleroys. We saw so many matching sets of kids - little girls wearing velvet dresses, red tights, patent leather Mary Janes and oversize bows in their (perfect) hair, boys in velvet suits, bow ties and yamulkes - that we lost count.
Finally, we went to our seats - which were amazing. We were just seven rows behind the orchestra pit, where the wonderful Chicago Sinfonietta was raring to go. In fact we were so close that during the performance we could hear the beads clicking on the costume of Mr. Coffee from Arabia.
We read the synopsis beforehand, so we'd know what we were seeing. (Actually, TJ read it aloud because the print was small, the light was dim, and my scary old lady half-glasses wouldn't fit into my fancy purse).
The ballet was jaw-dropping, as was the music. There was so much going on at any given time that the many children in our section didn't get bored - and neither did I.
In fact there were so many exquisite moments that tears came to my eyes several times. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to sit there and watch something so beautiful, made possible by so many people, while wars waged and people outside begged for change. I also marveled over how startling it is to see something up close that is peformed by real people in real time and is not being viewed on a screen. And all done without words - which made it the experience even better.
Interestingly, most of the kids left at half-time. Perhaps they knew that after the first few numbers, the second part was more "adult" (ie; boring). But still rather breathtaking.
Afterwards, we walked up State Street to look at the holiday windows at Marshall Fields, er, Macy's. The theme - surprise! - was the Nutcracker.