We take you behind the scenes at the Royal Opera House as The Royal Ballet put together their superb version of The Nutcracker for Christmas

Sweeping majestically down a long, narrow corridor lined with framed black-and-white portraits of musicians, a freshfaced dancer bearing a large hoop of white netting approaches a rehearsal studio. ‘Excuse me,’ she says, politely. ‘Tutu coming through.’

The Nutcracker

The angels take to the stage

Behind the scenes of the Royal Opera House, where rehearsals are under way for The Nutcracker—that magical blend of Tchaikovsky’s music and the choreography of Petipa and Ivanov, adapted here by Peter Wright—is a labyrinth of corridors leading to studios, dressing rooms, and wardrobes filled with row upon row of wooden cubby holes stacked with pointe shoes and dangling ribbon—depending on the demands of the role, dancers can go through two pairs of shoes in a single performance.

The Nutcracker

David Pickering as The Mouse King

Doors open releasing a soprano’s scales, the tinkling of a distant piano and the distinctive pitter-patter of pairs of ballet shoes crossing one of the studio floors.

The Nutcracker

Sugar Plum fairy Hikaru Kobayshi

Past rails of costumes, including one bearing a series of magnificent angel wings labelled ‘Nutcracker’, is a dressing room in which Hikaru Kobayashi sits neatly in front of the mirror, carefully pinning on a blonde, elegantly-plaited wig coated in glitter. ‘I hope this is my wig,’ she says cheerfully, examining her reflection. ‘There are a few of us Sugar Plum Fairies.’

On the other side of the building, large sections of intricately detailed scenery are being carefully carried into position across the stage and, behind it, scenic artists Malcolm Kee and Jane Jones are decorating a giant Christmas tree with baubles and candles from the wobbling platform of an electric lift.

The Nutcracker

The angels take to the stage

‘We’ve been doing this for 10 years,’ Mr Kee explains with a smile, as he lowers himself to scrutinise his festive handiwork from ground level. ‘It feels as if we still haven’t mastered it.’

Perfect pas de deux

Perfect pas de deux

Down a flight of stairs, the bustling atmosphere gives way to near silence, as Emma Maguire and Luca Acri, two of the soloists playing Clara and Hans-Peter, are in the middle of rehearsing one of their scenes under the watchful eye of Guest Principal Ballet Master Christopher Carr. They nod at his direction, the pianist in the corner begins to play and they leap across the room in graceful, flawless unison. It’s pure enchantment.

The Nutcracker

In rehearsals for this year’s production

‘The Nutcracker’ is at the Royal Opera House, London WC2 until January 14, 2016 (020–7304 4000; www.roh.org.uk)

A repeat performance of the live screening will be shown in cinemas on December 27—to find your nearest venue, visit www.roh.org.uk/cinemas