As The Australian Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker hits town, outgoing artistic director David McAllister AM explains the challenges and opportunities of bringing one of ballet’s most recognisable works to Adelaide.
So, why The Nutcracker in the traditional version and not Graeme Murphy’s?
“Well, we did the Murphy version in 2017 as part of the all-Australian year, which was works that had been created for the Australian Ballet. It was also the 20th anniversary of the [company’s first performance] of Nutcracker and the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and we hadn’t done the traditional version for several years and it is one of those versions that people love to see. And Adelaide hasn’t seen it for – gosh – for a season 12 years ago, so it is timely to bring it back.”
You’re only doing the one program?
“Yes, we’ve got a very big year next year. We’ve got three new full-length ballets going in and two premieres – a new work by Alice [Topp] and Ashton’s A Month in the Country are entering the repertoire. It’s going to be a very busy year.
“It’s my last year so I’ve cracked open the piggy banks and it’s going to have as much new stuff as possible. And we’ll have Graeme Murphy’s new work which had to be held over because of his illness this year. We’ll be on a very tight schedule to get it all on stage.”
Is it likely that in 2021 we’ll get two programs?
“That’s a tricky one. At this point I think it’s just the one. We’re a bit hamstrung. The last time we did two in Adelaide we thought, ‘well here’s a chance to do two ballets in Adelaide and we’ll see how it goes.’ It didn’t go well. The second was Nijinsky and it went over like a dead fish. Perhaps the choice of the ballet wasn’t right.”
I’m amazed! It’s such excellent ballet, and was excellently performed.
“Yes. But perhaps people are used to coming to just one ballet. And the second program was Swan Lake, which was fantastic; it’s such a great piece. It’s tough! I don’t know what the answer to it is. But I know that when we’ve come twice in a year one of the programs has suffered quite badly.
“In 2003 we did two, one in the Dunstan, but the other didn’t do well – and that was [Graeme Murphy’s] Romeo and Juliet in the Festival Theatre. But in the greater scheme of things, our Adelaide seasons have grown – we only used to do six shows and now we’re up to seven or eight. And we’re selling out.’
How many main casts do you have for Nutcracker?
“Four. No, five! The lighting has been reset and the ballet is looking so good just now.”
The Australian Ballet: The Nutcracker
Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
8-12 October 2019