Sarah Wildor's sparkling portrayal of the Sugar Plum Fairy on Saturday evening (6th Jan) provided the icing on an already delicious Christmas confection. She looked beautiful, and I cannot imagine, and have certainly never seen, the Sugar Plum Fairy danced better. Above all, she showed a real sensitivity to the score, with her interpretation of the choreography perfectly attuned to each phrase of Tchaikovsky's music. Sheer magic.
The grand pas de deux as a whole was a triumph, at once romantic and exciting. Wildor and Cope make a dazzling partnership and the rapturous applause was fully deserved. Jonathan Cope's variation was immaculately performed, with beautifully cushioned landings.
When I had originally booked back in September, as a Christmas treat for my daughter, we had, to be honest, never heard of Alina Cojocaru. With the rave notices and the attendant publicity since, we were really excited at the prospect of seeing her as Clara. We were not disappointed. She is a very special performer - a natural dancer/actor, totally sincere in her characterisation and with that rare ability to make the steps look freshly minted. Her pas de deux with Ivan Putrov's Nutcracker before the snow scene was thrilling. (I overheard in the interval that one particular lift hadn't even been attempted at that afternoon's performance.)
Putrov himself was an excellent Nutcracker. His mime in Act II recounting the battle was crisply and amusingly performed, and he, like Cojocaru, radiated a joy in dancing that was totally infectious.
There are so many other things I could mention in a very fine production: the lovely sets - especially the Land of Snow (the lighting and snowfall so much more effective than on TV); Zenaida Yanowsky's long-limbed sinuousness in the Arabian dance; Muriel Valtat's fetching Rose Fairy; Christopher Saunders' tall and commanding Drosselmeyer and Philip Hesketh's brisk conducting. William Tuckett as the Mouse King, standing in for an injured David Pickering, deserves a special mention, too - at least for his quick-footedness. When, at the height of the battle, the trap door failed to open on cue, he, presumably, had to make a frantic dash upstairs. Several bars later, and after some imaginative improvisation by the warring troops, the Mouse King leapt on from Stage Left, with just enough time to go one round with the Nutcracker before the nasty incident with the slipper.