Washington Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ to have live music

October 11, 2011

After two years of canned Tchaikovsky, the Washington Ballet will dance to a live orchestra during its four-week run of “The Nutcracker” this season, thanks to a $250,000 gift from longtime arts supporter Adrienne Arsht, the ballet announced Tuesday.

The donation comes as the ballet prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its first “Nutcracker” performances. That production, by company founder Mary Day, was replaced in 2004 by Artistic Director Septime Webre’s version of the holiday classic. Webre’s Washington-themed “Nutcracker” will be performed Dec. 1-24 at the Warner Theatre.

Arsht is known for large gifts: In 2008, she gave $30 million to Miami’s Performing Arts Center, renamed the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. And in 2005, she gave $2 million to Goucher College, outside Baltimore. She is treasurer of the Kennedy Center’s board of trustees and is a board member of the Washington National Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, among other groups.

She got to know Day and her ballet company when she arrived in the District in 1979, Arsht said in a statement. “I have great artistic respect for the company, am enthralled by Septime Webre’s ‘Nutcracker,’ and want to ensure that young children . . . will be inspired by the live music of an orchestra.”

“We are thrilled that we have a very generous donor whose interest is live music,” said board chair Sylvia A. de Leon in an interview Tuesday. The Washington Ballet “has reached a new three-year agreement with the musicians. This will be the framework not only for ‘The Nutcracker,’ but for future live music we hope to have.”

Although the ballet appears to be doing well financially, de Leon cautioned that future use of an orchestra is uncertain. The ballet’s budget is $9 million, up from $8 million last year. Ballet subscribers and single-ticket purchasers have increased, and last year’s “Nutcracker” was the company’s most profitable ever, de Leon said.

“There certainly was no financial effect” from using recorded music, she said. “We do not have any commitment and no budget for live music beyond this fiscal year.”

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