Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"The Nutcracker" in audio

I have experienced two Nutcracker audio books, both different variations of the story, but very similar in presentation. And both by Caedmon Audio, as well!

The earliest is Story of the Nutcracker, read by Claire Bloom. The back cover gives a brief history of the story, crediting Hoffman, Dumas, and the creators of the ballet. Janet Schulman is the writer of the adaptation presented on the album, which is a very faithful one. Instead of just having a basic condensation of the plot, Schulman's take allows the characters to develop just as they do in Hoffman's book. This adaptation is also available as a book, illustrated by Renee Graef.

In addition to staying true to Hoffman's tale, Schulman also works in some of the entertainments from the ballet, including the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Arabian coffee dancer.

Claire Bloom gives a wonderful reading, backed with music from the ballet. The mix is perfectly edited together. It's a wonderful listening experience, and perfect for anyone interested in the original story.

The other recording is a straightforward reading of the book by Christopher Plummer. The book is Ralph Manheim's excellent translation of Hoffman's original. Again, it is mixed with the music from the ballet, mixed to highlight it.

Plummer gives the story a life of its own. Marie is fittingly dreamy, while when Fritz enters, he reads in a pompous tone, emulating to how seriously Fritz takes his army play. Drosselmeyer is not as mysterious as he could easily be, but is a warm and inviting German nut. I found his reading of the story of Princess Pirlipat immersive.

I highly recommend both recordings!

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