"The Nutcracker" is now an American Christmas tradition, but when Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky debuted the work in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, it wasn't a success. San Antonio Symphony’s Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto explains.
"You have to understand, until Tchaikovsky came along, ballet music was just ballet music," Fujimoto said. "It wasn’t appreciated for its own good, and Tchaikovsky single-handedly did that."
Fujimoto is conducting the now-iconic production at the Majestic Theatre on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for much of December. Most shows are in the evening, but there are some daytime ones for children.
"The week after Thanksgiving we also do student shows," Fujimoto said. "We do 45-minute versions of the Nutcracker. So if the 2 hours is to much for your little ones, you can also come to the morning shows."
The music is only half the program though; there’s also the dancing.
"Ballet San Antonio always comes up with a fresh approach to this holiday favorite," Fujimoto said. "There will be some new choreography, and there will be some oldies but goodies, like the acrobatics from the children, from the gymnasts, which just always steals the show in the second half."
The Nutcracker has become indelibly a part of many Americans’ holiday entertainment plans, but that's not the case in other countries.
"In Europe they don’t play it every Christmas like they do here," Fujimoto said. "It’s only in America that it became the holiday staple."
Fujimoto said it is a thrilling experience to conduct "The Nutcracker."
"Oh absolutely. It is great music," she said.