A lot of people are thankful for The Nutcracker: Celesta players (yes, they exist), tykes hungry for a touch of Christmas magic, and of course, their parents, who fork out for the tradition of a post-Christmas lunch matinee. The Hong Kong Ballet has, year after year, risen to the challenge of putting on the festive show, and this December they present the two-act ballet, choreographed by young Australian native Terence Kohler. For the second year running, The Nutcracker again features minor plot changes to the traditional ballet – the original ETA Hoffmann tale is referenced – with dance sequences unique to other traditional productions around the globe, revived costumes and set design. Cited as being geared more for the under-12s, the festive spirit of the family show continues behind the scenes too, as budding child ballerinas play bit-part roles in the production featuring Clara and her Nutcracker Prince.
The Hong Kong Sinfonietta provides live orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s score, conducted by British conductor Martin Yates. And the celesta? Well, there’s only one for every Nutcracker production, but its sound is spell-binding. Amid the technical bravura of battle scenes, glockenspiel-like tinkles can be heard accompanying the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance as she weaves through her snowy wonderland. When Tchaikovsy wrote the instrument into the score in 1892, the celesta was a relatively new invention, and today, its distinctive chimes are still mainly associated with the Fairy’s pas de deux (the Harry Potter theme motif being a close second). After stuffing yourself on turkey and mulled wine, you know you’ll want to see The Nutcracker anyway, so you might as well book your tickets now. Ysabelle Cheung
The Nutcracker Cultural Centre, Grand Theatre, Dec 20-29. Tickets: $1,500-$140; urbtix.hk.