The holiday season and the Nutcracker go together like bread & butter. There are not many ballets out there that don't have this beloved classic by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on their plan each year and if you follow dancers on social media, you will have been bombarded with photos. Personally, there is no holiday season without the Nutcracker.
There are a couple of houses where we love to watch a ballet. The Semperoper in Dresden was very high on our list and we got to tick that off this past December. A few days before Christmas we travelled to Dresden to drink mulled wine on the Christmas market (Cherry flavour. In case you want to know) and watch the Nutcracker live on stage.
We love to go backstage and be right in the middle of the hustle and bustle, checking out the costumes and the make up area, admire the props and watching the dancers warm up. The press department of the Semperoper was so very kind to allow us to come backstage and take lots of photos and even interview the two dancers Chiara Scarrone (she was Marie) and Václav Lamparter (he was the Nutcracker/prince). These interviews will be a new post.
Come follow us backstage, why don't you?
If I said it once, I said it a thousand times: Theatre, operas and ballet are the keeper of crafts. The costumes are handmade, so are the head pieces and props. Some of them have been used for many years.
The backstage area at the Semperoper consists of long, windowless hallways with lots of doors leading to the make up room, changing areas of the dancers or offices for the administration. You will have to know your way around. The hallways are filled with costume racks right outside the rooms of the dancers. Everything works and has to work like clockwork. Dancers are required to be in the make up chair at a certain time to get their face on. Getting dozens of dancers ready is no easy task. Discipline starts here.
The rehearsal room is always my favorite. Mirrors from wall to wall, barres and a piano. For me (as a ballet lover but never a dancer), this screams ballet. The rehearsal room has a gallery for visitors that is located above the dancers. No photos allowed!
The Nutcracker in the Semperoper is a very traditional production and so is the set.
The look into the auditorium from the stage is pretty impressive. The interior is certainly one of the most beautiful ones we got to visit.
The dancers warmed up, so it was time for us to head into the Semperoper itself. A German beer brand uses the outside of the Semperoper in their commercials and therefore people often think this building is not an opera, but a fancy brewery. It is smack dab in the middle of Dresden. There is the Zwinger to the left and the river Elbe on the left. In front is the theatre square that is filled with people dancing when Dresden hosts the opera ball each year.
Ain't she a beauty?
It is safe to say, this house has seen its fair share of catastrophies! The Semperoper was openend in 1841 and in 1869 a devastating fire burnt it down. But it was rebuild by architect Gottfried Semper, who gave the opera its name. In the last weeks of World War II in 1945, the Semperoper was largely destroyed by bombs, leaving only the shell standing. 40 years later in 1985 the reconstruction was completed. But then came the flood of 2002. The Elbe set large parts of Dresden under water and the Semperoper suffered heavy water damage.
Look at it now, though! Feast your eyes on the interior of this iconic venue.
There is not only a red curtain seperating the stage from the auditorium, but also a fabric covered "wall" that opens up before the curtain raises. This curtain alone weighs 400 kilogramms.
Above the stage is a clock that works in five minute intervals. That clock comes in very handy, so you really have no excuse to get your phone out to check the time. Not that there is an excuse anyway.
It is certainly worth looking up at the ceiling when you get a glass of bubbly (and you really should look up and get bubbly!). The Semperoper is a wonderful venue and if you can get tickets you really should. It offers a great variety in opera, ballet and concerts. Some are traditonal, some are new and unique. If you can't visit in the evening, take the tour through the house and find out more about the history of this house. It will certainly be worth your while.
Thank you very much Semperoper for allowing us to come backstage. It was such a treat, we will talk about here and beyond for years to come. And we will be back!