For those who think they know The Nutcracker inside and out, think again. The ballet that we see in December is based on a scenario by Alexandre Dumas père, a shortened and softened retelling of the original 1816 story by E. T. A. Hoffmann, The Nutcracker & The Mouse King. Hoffmann was a German Romantic fantasist, and his Christmas story contains far more twists, turns, and bite than Marius Petipa and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky allowed into the ballet. The conductor John Mauceri decided it was time to bring Hoffmann to the fore. In 2019, in Edinburgh, he debuted his own Nutcracker—a concert version that returns to Hoffmann’s story. Mauceri uses music from Tchaikovsky’s immortal score, of course, but has woven in other relevant music by the master. And the work has a perfect narrator in Alan Cumming, who brings a brilliant twinkle to everything he does. “Captivating,” the critics called the show. Mauceri and Cumming now perform it with the San Francisco Symphony for one magical night. —L.J.
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