Three Things You Never Knew About The Nutcracker

This week we count down the days until the opening of BalletMet’s “The Nutcracker,” returning to the Detroit Opera House Thanksgiving weekend. The ballet tells the story of the young Clara and her Nutcracker-turned-prince as they journey together for a magical evening on Christmas Eve to The Land of Sweets.

As a beloved holiday tradition, the story is well-known, but here are three facts you might not know about “The Nutcracker.”:

It is not an original story

  • “The Nutcracker” ballet is based off an 1816 story by ETA Hoffmann, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” It tells of the feud between the King and Mouse Queen, who curses the Princess and then her rescuer, transforming him into a nutcracker, who is eventually rescued by Marie (Clara in the ballet).

Critics did not like it

  • When the ballet premiered in 1892, it was not well-received by critics. Tchaikovsky himself thought the music was not as good as his previous work, “The Sleeping Beauty.” The ballet became successful after George Balanchine’s new production in 1954 with the New York City Ballet.

It features an unusual instrument

  • “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” features a celesta, a piano-like instrument that uses hammers to strike metal, creating a magical tinkling, bell-like sound. The instrument is also used in the theme for “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

BalletMet will give four performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Detroit Opera House Nov. 25-27. For tickets and more information, visit