Boston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” isn’t just a holiday tradition, it’s a showcase for the company’s talented dancers. The ballet, as originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in 1892, is replete with individual roles: the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince, of course, but also Harlequin and Columbine, the Snow Queen and King, the Dew Drop Fairy, and the soloists in the Spanish, Arabian, Russian, and Pastorale divertissements. This year’s “Nutcracker” will offer 44 performances, through New Year’s Eve, so there’ll be many opportunities for corps members to shine, and for audiences to see potential stars on the rise.
The current production from Boston Ballet’s artistic director, Mikko Nissinen, debuted in 2012. Robert Perdziola’s detailed sets and costumes repay close attention, especially the richly patterned Silberhaus drawing room, the birch forest for the Snow Scene, and, in the second act, the ballroom of the Nutcracker Prince’s kingdom. But Nissinen’s scenario has a serious side. It begins with Clara Silberhaus, in her powder blue coat and bonnet, buying a posy from some street urchins. When the set opens to invite the guests — and the audience — into the Silberhauses’ holiday party, the urchins are left out in the cold.
Clara and her younger brother Fritz are also potential star-making roles, having been filled in the past by former principal dancer Jennifer Gelfand and current soloist Isaac Akiba. Friday’s Clara, Elise Beauchemin, was elegant in line and self-possessed in her acting. And Seiya Saneyoshi brought a fine military precision to the Prussian-oriented Fritz.
Misa Kuranaga has been this production’s opening-night Sugar Plum more often than not, and she was again Friday. It’s tempting to take Kuranaga for granted: she makes technique — particularly fouettés — look easy and poetry look even easier. She had an apt, accomplished partner in Paulo Arrais as her Nutcracker Prince. As Herr Drosselmeier, Clara’s godpapa, Lasha Khozashvili was dashing but also mischievous, the kind of grown-up who understands kids.
The first act gave us Rachele Buriassi and Roddy Doble as the doting Silberhaus parents and Maria Alvarez and Daniel Cooper as Clara’s lovably doddering grandparents. Patric Palkens was effective as a menacing, self-satisfied Harlequin; as the Ballerina Doll (this production’s name for Columbine), Hannah Bettes was sweet but not very robotic. Anaïs Chalendard and John Lam paired nicely, especially in their lifts, as the Snow Queen and King.
In the second-act divertissements, the highlight was the smoky, slinky Arabian of Maria Baranova and Paul Craig. Seo Hye Han was a crisp Dew Drop, Graham Johns a womanly, flirtatious Mother Ginger; Ji Young Chae brought an infectious radiance to the Chinese number.
The Boston Ballet Orchestra, under principal guest conductor Beatrice Jona Affron, was efficient if not memorable; the Tchaikovsky score breezed by without making much of an impression. Some aspects of the production seem understated as well. But there’ll always be magic in this retelling of the E. T. A. Hoffmann novella about a girl whose love for an ugly enchanted nutcracker breaks the spell and turns him back into a prince. It’s Clara’s story, and in Boston Ballet’s “Nutcracker” she has the last word, reminding us that dreams can be real.
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Choreography by Mikko Nissinen. Set and costumes: Robert Perdziola. Lighting: Mikki Kunttu. With the Boston Ballet Orchestra conducted by Beatrice Jona Affron. Presented by Boston Ballet. At: Boston Opera House, through Dec. 31. Tickets: $35-$250. 617-695-6955, www.bostonballet.orgJeffrey Gantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org