The Nutcracker (Russian: «Щелкунчик», Shchelkunchik) is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on Sunday, December 18, 1892, on a double-bill with Tchaikovsky’s opera, Iolanta.
Although the original production was not a success, the twenty-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was. However, the complete Nutcracker has enjoyed enormous popularity since the mid-20th century and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in the U.S. Tchaikovsky’s score has become one of his most famous compositions, in particular the pieces featured in the suite. Among other things, the score is noted for its use of the celesta, an instrument that the composer had already employed in his much lesser known symphonic ballad The Voyevoda.