Advance ticket sales have ended but plenty of additional tickets remain available at the door.
Profs and Pints Richmond presents: “The Twisted Roots of the Nutcracker,” on the strange origins of a beloved holiday tale, with Sarah Hillenbrand Varela, associate professor of German at Longwood University, and Erik Varela, assistant director of Longwood’s study abroad program.
Many are familiar with Tchaikovsky's delightful ballet rendition of “The Nutcracker,” which families all over the world have made a staple of their family holiday traditions. But far fewer are aware of the story's dark roots.
Take a deep dive into the origins of one of the Christmas holidays' most beloved tales with Erik Varela, whose graduate work explored representations of horror in the writings of The Nutcracker’s original author, and Professor Sarah Hillenbrand Varela, who specializes in literary and cultural animal studies with special focuses on German language and literature and on fairy tales and adaptations. Together they’ll make the tale come alive for you in an entirely new way, not for the faint of heart.
You’ll learn how the original source for the popular ballet is the author E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1816 "Nussknacker und Mausekönig." The Varelas will share the twists and turns of the original story, with special attention to the many threads Hoffmann weaves together to create the colorful, and often frightening, tapestry that is his haunting Christmas tale.
To situate the original work within its European context, the Varelas will discuss its historical and psychological elements beyond the representations of traditional German Christmas, whimsical fairy tales, and the swashbuckling adventure familiar to fans of the ballet. You’ll learn how it also employs depictions of medieval phenomena as well as psychological drama and stories-within-stories that are both fascinating and chilling.
Finally, the Varelas will trace how Hoffman’s work was adapted by Alexander Dumas in 1844 before coming to the stage in the form beloved by so many today. Knowing its origins, you’ll never see it the same way again. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: A 1924 Artuš Scheiner illustration for E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.