Frazier History Museum

Nutcracker Page.jpg

Nutcracker The Exhibition:
60 Years of Magic and Majesty

November 9, 2017 - February 1, 2018

For six decades the Louisville Ballet has given the community one of its most beloved holiday traditions: The Nutcracker Ballet. This year the Frazier Museum, where the world meets Kentucky, pays homage to this local take on a Russian classic with Nutcracker the Exhibition: 60 Years of Magic and Majesty.

This one-of-a-kind exhibition features a wide-ranging collection of items from Louisville Ballet Nutcracker productions of the past, primarily the 1983 and 1995 seasons, as well as the 2009 season, when it entered into a sponsorship with Brown-Forman.

The collection includes original costumes; made-to-scale model boxes of the set; a prop owl perched on a grandfather clock; a bowing nutcracker on a garland-wrapped fireplace; a ratchet, a triangle, and other percussion instruments; axe, sword, and scimitar props; drawings of a sconce and an overmantel mirror; official program guides for the audience; and 22 pairs of pointe shoes, which is how many pairs an adult ballerina in the company receives in a year.

The Brown-Forman Nutcracker offers more than a hundred roles to children, as well. To celebrate this relationship the southern wall is dedicated to "Nut Families": the thousands of children and parent chaperones who have made the Louisville Ballet Nutcracker possible. A height chart on the wall lets any child between 47” and 64” tall see which role they would play: an angel, a mouse, a party child, or a toy soldier. A warm-up barre and two low vanities are installed nearby so that kids can simulate going backstage.

A timeline of the Louisville Ballet and its much-beloved Nutcracker productions runs along the eastern corridor of the building. Illustrated with in-depth photographs and Courier-Journal clippings, it spotlights pivotal moments in the company's history, including its founding in 1952, its rave reviews upon first staging parts of The Nutcracker in 1956, the hiring of artistic directors Alun Jones in 1978 and Bruce Simpson in 2002, and the commissioning of brand new sets from South Africa in 2009.

For those who have an interest in costume design, a nifty selection of notes, sketches, and fabric swatches from the “show bible” is posted in an alcove. These artifacts shed light on the care and precision with which every little detail of a Nutcracker costume is designed: the width of shoulder epaulettes on the Arabian Men's coats; the appliqué patterns on the Russian Men's jackets; the strips of citrine, ochre, and goldenrod in the bodice of Madame Derby's skirt.

In Act II, Clara and the nutcracker, now a handsome prince, voyage into the Land of Sweets, a wintry kingdom ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy. This role is danced by the prima ballerina and has some of the most complex choreography of the whole ballet. Immaculate tutus and tiaras designed for the Sugar Plum Fairy are on display in the mezzanine, while other tutus designed for the Snow Queen and her Snowflakes are in a case along the western wall. For a more in-depth look at a tutu, the four parts of one – the bodice, the basque, the plate, and the skirt – are separated and suspended by wires from the ceiling.

More items of stage clothing from Act II are shown along the northern wall: a jaunty hat, a bejeweled vest, a watercolor dress, and other costumes. Most of them symbolize food in the divertissements, or fanciful foreign dances, to which Clara and the Prince get treated as guests of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Each dance troupe represents a different delicacy from overseas: the Spanish Dancers are chocolate, the Arabian Dancers are coffee, the Chinese Dancers are tea, the Russian Dancers are candy cane or caviar, and the Mirlitons are marzipan.

Featuring original costumes and costume designs, hand-painted set models, stage props, and photographs, as well as insights into backstage life at the ballet, Nutcracker the Exhibition honors the history of this production and the dedicated dancers, costume designers, stage hands, lighting technicians, choreographers, musicians, conductors, and artistic directors who bring it to life every year. It has just about everything: a Rat King and a snow sling; a toy drum and a paper dragon; flower fairies and cavaliers; tutus and Tchaikovsky music -- not to mention all the Nutcracker ornaments, knickknacks, and stocking stuffers for sale in the gift shop.

Don't miss out! Come see it now through February 1.