Mark your calendar: ‘The Nutcracker’

Posted Dec. 16, 2009, at 5:22 p.m.

There are few examples of both classical music and ballet that have such eternal mainstream appeal as Peter Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” While attracting youth to classical music concerts and ballet performances has been a challenge for decades, “The Nutcracker” remains a surefire bet. When the Robinson Ballet and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra perform it this weekend at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono, they’ll be continuing one of the longest-standing Christmas traditions in the world.

Now in its 26th year of performing “The Nutcracker,” the Robinson Ballet again features company co-director Keith Robinson in the role of Herr Drosselmeyer and Francesca LeVigne as Clara. Land Cook is the Nutcracker, and Amanda Fahey and Nick Cormier will perform as the Snow Queen and the Snow Prince, respectively. Lastly, Stevie Dunham as the Sugar Plum Fairy rounds out the lead roles.

The sounds and images from “The Nutcracker” remain with you long after the holidays are over. The rat king, Mother Ginger and her many children and the Nutcracker himself are permanently enshrined in western culture. The “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” and the “Waltz of the Flowers” are among the most popular and enduring compositions in musical history. For kids, the classic is a right of passage, and for adults, it’s a treasured experience to have with your children.

The Bangor Symphony Orchestra will be led by up-and-coming conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos, a Portuguese American who has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony and Pops, and the Seattle Symphony and Opera. Though he is not one of the five finalists for the vacant music director position at the BSO, the orchestra seeks to highlight young conductors each season, as it did with the 2008 “The Nutcracker,” which featured young conductor Benjamin Makino.

2009 marks the return of “The Nutcracker” to the Collins Center for the Arts, after the center was closed for the 2007 and 2008 holiday seasons for renovations. For 2009, the Robinson Ballet and BSO have given 200 tickets to low-income families in the area, distributed through the University of Maine’s Office of the Dean of Students, Dr. Robert Dana.

Performances of “The Nutcracker” are set for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, and 3 p.m. Dec. 20. Tickets start at $20. For information, visit www.bangorsymphony.org or www.robinsonballet.org.

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