The Nutcracker
James Kudelka

December 8 – 30, 2023

The Nutcracker
James Kudelka

December 8 – 30, 2023


Ballet companies all over the world perform The Nutcracker during the holiday season, each with a special take on Marius Petipa’s beloved classic. The National Ballet of Canada has one of the finest versions in James Kudelka’s staging from 1995, which opens at a Christmas Eve party in rural 19th-century Russia. With non-stop dancing and magnificent sets and costumes from Santo Loquasto, with lighting by Jennifer Tipton, The Nutcracker is an unforgettable tribute to the imagination.

The Nutcracker Trailer

The Story

Squabbling siblings Marie and Misha are attending a Christmas party at their country estate when their mysterious Uncle Nikolai arrives, bearing gifts. These include a beautiful nutcracker doll for Marie, who takes it to the nursery that night. Then the magic begins. The clock strikes twelve, the Christmas tree grows to enormous proportions and Marie and Misha journey to the icy realm of the Snow Queen and golden palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy where they must learn to get along.

Five Things to Know
  1. 1Marius Petipa’s two-act ballet The Nutcracker premiered in Russia in 1892 set to original music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the final of his three full-length ballet scores. The story was based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.
  2. 2Kudelka’s adaptation changes the focus of Hoffman’s story from a little girl to siblings Marie and Misha. Their journey to the land of sweets presents them with challenges and is a metaphor for growing up.
  3. 3Traditionally, the party scene in Act 1 takes place indoors in a formal room of the house. But in Kudelka’s version, the action moves to a rural barn where winter weather – snowballs, chilly temperatures and ice – adds to the beauty and fun. The setting may have been inspired by Kudelka’s upbringing on a farm in Newmarket, Ontario.
  4. 4Instead of toys coming to life in Act 1, James Kudelka presents animals: a lifelike dancing Horse and two Bears, one of them on rollerblades! The production also includes a Rooster, Sheep, Fox and Unicorns, among other creatures.
  5. 5In James Kudelka’s staging, the famous Waltz of the Flowers includes a Bee – a truly unique addition that features some of the most dazzling choreography in the ballet.
Watch and Explore

Nutcracker View Gallery

The Choreographer

James Kudelka served as Resident Choreographer of The National Ballet of Canada following his nine years as Artistic Director. He creates works of incredible musicality and vision for companies internationally, from original full-length ballets to short contemporary works and remounted classics. Kudelka was Resident Choreographer of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie from 2008 to 2020.

The Composer

The late 19th-century Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created some of the most popular works in the classical repertoire, particularly his three full-length scores for ballet: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. His work includes full-length operas, multiple symphonies and concerti.


“The best Nutcracker on the planet.” – The Globe and Mail 

The Nutcracker: nothing short of spectacular!” – National Post 

“★★★★★/5 A Christmas gift for everyone… a feast for the senses, filled with enough wonder that there is something certain to delight audiences of any age and any taste.” – Toronto Sun 

“The ballet spectacle that never fails to delight young and old alike!” – 680 News 

Running Time

  • Act I 50m
  • Intermission 20m
  • Act II 50m
  • Total (approx) 2h


Choreography and Libretto:
James Kudelka

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Set and Costume Design:
Santo Loquasto

Lighting Design:
Jennifer Tipton

World Premiere: The National Ballet of Canada, O’Keefe Centre (now Meridian Hall), Toronto, December 21, 1995

The Nutcracker is made possible by generous financial support from production underwriters Sandra Pitblado, C.M. & Jim Pitblado, C.M., Lawrence and Ann Heisey and an anonymous friend of the National Ballet.

This production is dedicated to Celia Franca and Betty Oliphant.
With respect, admiration and gratitude. – JK

Running Time

  • Act I 50m
  • Intermission 20m
  • Act II 50m
  • Total (approx) 2h

Create Your Own Subscription and Save!

Many Options Available


Delve Deeper

Visit our news section, Ballet News + for a more in-depth look at all of our productions.

Visit Ballet News+

Ballet Talks

The National Ballet invites you to attend the Ballet Talk 45 minutes before every performance in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Email Newsletter

Be the first to know when casting is announced by signing up for Ballet News.

Sign Up Today