Story of Nutcracker

On Christmas Eve 1944, the audience at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House experienced the American premiere of Nutcracker. An instant sensation, the ballet launched a national holiday tradition.


In his shop on a foggy Christmas Eve in 1915 a toymaker, Drosselmeyer, puts the finishing touches on a magical nutcracker doll. It will be a gift for his relatives, the Stahlbaum family, whose home he will visit that evening. Customers drop by, searching for last-minute Christmas gifts. Outside the Stahlbaum house, as people hurry home to their Christmas revelries, Drosselmeyer arrives with his beautifully wrapped present.

In the sitting room of the Stahlbaum house, a tree trimming party is under way. Clara and Fritz, followed by their friends, arrive downstairs to see the tree lit, for the very first time in their lives, by electric lights. The children dance with glee. Soon it is time to open gifts. As the children settle down to play with their presents, Dr. Stahlbaum invites his guests to dance. Clara joins the adults. Drosselmeyer—“Uncle Drosselmeyer” to the Stahlbaums—arrives and entertains the families with magic. He delights the children with a performing jack-in-the- box and a beautiful, life-sized ballerina. Clara is captivated by them. At last, Uncle Drosselmeyer opens his specially wrapped gift for the family and presents her the magical nutcracker doll. Clara, delighted, dances with the nutcracker. Fritz looks on with envy, then grabs the nutcracker, which falls and breaks. Uncle Drosselmeyer bandages the doll and returns it to Clara, who plays with it quietly. As a close to the evening’s festivities, the revered Stahlbaum grandparents begin their annual holiday dance.

The hour is late, and the guests begin their good-byes. Fritz and Clara go upstairs to their bedrooms, and the house quiets down. Soon, Clara descends the steps, searching for her nutcracker doll. As the clock strikes midnight, she settles on the sofa and falls asleep. As Clara dreams, her mind whirls with the memories of the evening. Deep within her dream, Uncle Drosselmeyer appears and mends the nutcracker doll. Clara wakens into her dream, and her house begins to change around her. The Christmas tree grows large and wondrous.

Then mice appear, frightening Clara. But, magically, the Nutcracker summons toy soldiers from the cupboard to fend off the mice. A tremendous battle ensues. The fierce Mouse King arrives and engages in a duel with the Nutcracker. Clara bravely aids the Nutcracker, who, though victorious, is overcome by exhaustion from the battle. Clara is worried, but Uncle Drosselmeyer consoles her. He then transforms the Nutcracker into a dashing Prince. Clara and the Prince embark together on a magical journey to the Land of Snow.

Clara and the Prince arrive and are welcomed by the Snow King and Snow Queen. As snow continues to fall, snowflakes begin to dance. Then the King and Queen send Clara and the Prince off to their next adventure in a beautiful sleigh.

San Francisco street scene from the Prologue of Tomasson's Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson


The scene opens in the garden of the Crystal Palace where ladybugs, dragonflies, and butterflies dance. The Sugar Plum Fairy welcomes Clara and the Prince and asks them to tell her about the adventure that brought them to her world. The Prince recounts his tale of war with the Mouse King and describes Clara’s bravery. The Sugar Plum Fairy commands a festival, filled with dancing, to honor her guests. The celebration begins with Spanish flair. Colorful Arabians, whirling dancers from China, and lovely French Mirlitons perform for the guests.

Sharing in the festivities are Russian entertainers and the famous Madame du Cirque, who reveals many small surprises, including a dancing bear! In the final celebratory dance, the Sugar Plum Fairy joins in a glorious waltz with her court of flowers, dazzling Clara and the Prince. As the festivities draw to a close, the Sugar Plum Fairy and Uncle Drosselmeyer grant Clara her greatest Christmas wish by transforming her into a beautiful ballerina, to dance in the arms of her Prince.

It is Christmas morning. Clara awakens, the nutcracker safe in her arms.