It is Christmas Eve in a small town in Germany, in the 1820's. In the town square, the mysterious Drosselmeier presents a performance in his Children's Theatre and then hurries off to the Silberhaus' Christmas party with his gifts.
The Party Scene
Family and friends gather at the Silberhaus' home to celebrate the holiday. The children are excited to receive Christmas gifts, and Clara Silberhaus is especially delighted with a pair of pointe shoes. Clara and her brother Fritz's favorite uncle, Herr Drosselmeier, arrives an hour late. In his usual manner, Drosselmeier becomes the heart of the party, entertaining the children with magic, a toy theatre and a mechanical ballerina and harlequin. The children are delighted and eagerly ask him for more. Drosselmeier has one more surprise up his sleeve as he presents his favorite creation, the Nutcracker. To his disappointment the children are not interested, with the exception of Clara, who immediately falls in love with the Nutcracker and begs Drosselmeier to make it life-size. Disenchanted with his gift, Fritz gets jealous and breaks Clara's Nutcracker. Drosselmeier repairs him and Clara and her friends rock their dolls to sleep with a lullaby. Soon it is time for the traditional grandparents' dance. With the children tired, the party winds down, and the guests depart. The Governess escorts Clara and Fritz to their rooms and the Silberhaus' retire.
Clara is too excited to sleep as she recalls the evening's party and her Nutcracker left under the Christmas tree. She sneaks back to the living room to find him and falls asleep on the sofa. With the house quiet, the mice begin to appear. The clock strikes midnight and the mice have their own party. Clara awakens to find her living room filled with mice! Drosselmeier appears to rescue Clara and he magically makes the house and the Christmas tree grow. He then grants Clara's wish for a life-size Nutcracker, and her Nutcracker Prince appears.
The Battle Scene
The Nutcracker Prince and his tin soldiers battle the mice for possession of the Castle of the Snow King and Queen. The monstrous Mouse King appears and the battle ensues. The Mouse King seems to have the upper hand, when Clara, frightened, throws her slipper at him, enabling the Nutcracker Prince to slay the distracted Mouse King.
The Snow Scene
The grateful Nutcracker Prince invites Clara to join him on a journey through the Magical Forest, where they meet the Snow King and Queen and see the Snowflakes dance. Clara and the Nutcracker Prince continue on their journey as they travel on a cloud to the Nutcracker Prince's Kingdom.
The Nutcracker Prince's Kingdom
Clara and the Nutcracker Prince arrive at the cloud-covered gates of the Nutcracker Prince's Kingdom, where he and the Sugar Plum Fairy reign. The Nutcracker Prince tells his court the story of how Clara saved his life. In gratitude, the Sugar Plum Fairy presents Clara with a crown, and festivities commence in Clara's honor. Showcasing national pride, Spanish dancers perform with passion and flourish. Arabian dancers mesmerize the court, followed by piquant Chinese dancers, and an endearing French Pastorale. Larger than life Mother Ginger appears with little polichinelles beneath her skirt. The spectacular Russians entertain and Dewdrop and her Flowers dance a lilting waltz. The Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince honor Clara with a grand pas de deux, and the entire court joins in the finale.
As the night goes on and the dream continues, the pages of the Kingdom guide Clara on her journey back home. Clara awakens, disoriented, on the living room couch. Cradling her Nutcracker doll, she remembers, and wonders……was this all a dream?
Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker is based on the libretto by Alexandre Dumas père, titled The Tale of the Nutcracker, which is adapted from E. T. A. Hoffmann's story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.