Sunday 18 December 2011

The 12 Gays of Christmas

Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”. The ballet had its premiere in St. Petersburg on this day in 1892. It wasn’t considered a success at first and even Tchaikovsky himself wasn’t all that keen on it – he much preferred his earlier ballet “The Sleeping Beauty”.

Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write “The Nutcracker” based on the success of “The Sleeping Beauty” though he got a bit annoyed by the many specific instructions from his collaborating choreographer Marius Pepita on what to include in and exclude from his composition.

The composer’s sexuality has recently been reclaimed from the Soviet censorship of the 20th century. Most of his letters and papers were destroyed or doctored to prevent the knowledge of his homosexuality from reaching the “ordinary people”. Modern musicologists and biographers have reversed this censorship and have identified several gay relationships he had.

Like a lot of gay men over the years Tchaikovsky married in the belief that it would “cure” him of his sexual urges. But the marriage was a disaster and lasted less than 3 months.

Aside from this Tchaikovsky’s music proved successful. His first works were composed while he was a music teacher. Then, in 1888, Tzar Alexander III awarded him a lifetime pension which enabled Tchaikovsky to travel the world giving concerts.

“The Nutcracker” was one of Tchaikovsky’s last works. He died of cholera in 1893, a few months after the ballet’s premiere. With him at his death were his brother Modest, his gay nephew Vladimir Davidov, and Aleksei Sofronov, his servant, companion and lover who had been one of Tchaikovksy’s music students.

I can guarantee that at least one seasonal advert will use one of the melodies from “The Nutcracker”. Just this Christmas I’ve heard “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” being used in 3 Christmas adverts – for Pringles, M&Ms, and the Westfield Shopping Centre in Derby.

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