Last night, a travel associate of mine was telling me about her experience in seeing The Nutcracker at the National Theatre in Prague on Monday. Hearing the excitement in her voice told me all that I really needed to know: she had a fantastic time. Seeing Tchaikovsky’s famed ballet in any setting is definitely a treat but seeing it in one of the better performance venues in the world is extra special. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the 2009 Nutcracker Ballet in Tokyo.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across word that there would be a performance of The Nutcracker in the Greater Tokyo Area by way of Metropolis, Japan’s #1 English magazine. In an early November 2009 edition, I read that the New National Theatre, Tokyo was featuring performances for 10 days from December 15-24. Of course, by the time I called to arrange for a ticket, almost all of the seats and dates were sold out. All except the show on December 24. Having missed the opportunity to see The Nutcracker in Jacksonville 3 years earlier because of drama with my then-girlfriend, I relished the opportunity to attend. So I reserved a spot for the Christmas Eve show. I put on one of my more casual suits, hopped on the JR Chūō Special Rapid to Shinjuku, where I transferred to Keio New Line for the 2-minute ride to Hatsudai Station. I arrived at 6:47pm. When I made my way up the escalators towards the check-in desk, the attendant was like “Good evening, Mr. Thomas. We’ve been expecting you”. I had a somewhat shocked look on my face like “how did she know it was me”. She went on to explain that I was the last remaining guest who hadn’t checked in yet. In other words, I was the last one not seated. I checked in and the usher showed me to my seat. The performance was grand. I had a vantage point where I could see the ballet performers on stage and the chamber orchestra in the pit. The entire performance lasted about 2 ½ hours and included a 30-minute intermission. It was one of the greatest stage performances I had ever seen…to include plays, recitals, and even concerts.
What it meant to me then? For me, it meant a lot at the time. It was my first time going to a ballet and I actually spoiled myself by attending arguably the best one in Asia. Because I missed a Christmas Eve fellowship in order to attend the performance, I was subject to a little ribbing from my friends about it but my spiritual mother shut that down real quick.
What it means to me now? Attending that performance really opened up a different avenue of culture for me. I’ve attended 11 ballet performances and 2 operas since, exposing myself to an entirely different genre of performance arts. In the 5 Decembers since that debut, I’ve seen The Nutcracker 3 times: the Fox Theatre in Atlanta (2010), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC (2011), and the Hong Kong Culture Centre (2012). I’ve missed it the last 2 years…mostly because of work obligations. But next year, I’ll likely try to head up to New York to see it at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.