Peter Wright’s production, based on Lev Ivanov’s nineteenth century original, is now 25 years old, but still looks great. Wright has constantly tweaked and refined it, and it comes up fresh as ever on the big opera house stage. This version stays closer than most to the original E.T.A.Hoffman story. Drosselmeyer, a magician, has invented a trap that killed off half the mouse population. In revenge, the Mouse Queen has turned his nephew, Hans-Peter, into an ugly nutcracker. To break the curse, the Nutcracker must kill the Mouse King and win the love of a young girl, so it’s a ‘beauty and the beast’ kind of scenario.

This is where the work starts, and we’re off on the familiar trip from the Stahlbaum’s Christmas party, through the land of snow, the kingdom of sweets and the sugar-garden of the palace. The Mouse King is defeated of course, with help from the heroine Clara, and the Nutcracker turns into the handsome Ricardo Cervera. This allows for lots of lovely dancing with Clara, played by Meaghan Grace Hinkis, who joined the Royal Ballet last season from American Ballet Theatre. The two make a fine pair. This ballet calls for a large cast who provide a feast of dancing. Among the performances that particularly stood out were Roberta Marquez and Stephen McRae in the ‘grand pas-de-deux’, a long, traditionally constructed classical duet, beautifully danced, and the up-and-coming Melissa Hamilton in the Arabian dance – an eye-catching turn indeed !

The sets and costumes by Julia Trevelyan Oman sparkle sumptuously, taking us far away from the realistic drawing room in which the action starts. The ballet is also the story of the awakening of first love in a young girl, and at the close, awakening from her dream, Clara encounters an attractive young man whom she feels she must have met somewhere before. The Nutcracker continues at the Royal Opera House until January 16.

Box office: Tel 0207 304 4000,