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Marie? Clara? Masha? What is the name of the main female character in The Nutcracker?

by Treva Bedinghaus
Updated July 02, 2017

Is Clara the name of the main female character in the Nutcracker ballet? In some references, the young heroine is referred to as “Marie” or “Masha.” Is her name really Clara, Marie or Masha?

What is interesting is the answer varies with who you ask, and who is developing the production. The answer can vary widely, although, most agree “Clara,” is the popular answer.

In most versions of the popular holiday ballet The Nutcracker, the young girl who falls asleep and dreams about a prince is named Clara.

As the curtain opens, the wealthy Staulbahm family, including young children Clara and Fritz, is busily preparing for their annual Christmas Eve party. Clara and Fritz are anxiously awaiting the arrival of several invited guests.

Portraying the role of Clara in the Nutcracker is an aspiration of many young ballerinas. Most ballet companies choose the role of Clara and other main characters during ​auditions several weeks before the performance.

The original tale of The Nutcracker is based on a libretto by E.T.A. Hoffman titled “Der Nussnacker und der Mausekonig,” or “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” The score was written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. It premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg on Sunday, December 18, 1892, to extremely mixed reviews and criticism.

In the original story, Clara is not the Stahlbaum’s cherished daughter but an unloved and neglected orphan.

Somewhat like Cinderella, Clara is required to do chores in the household that usually go unappreciated.

In 1847, famous French author Alexandre Dumas rewrote Hoffman’s story, removing some of its darker elements and changing the name of Clara. He chose to refer to Clara as “Marie.” Because The Nutcracker ballet developed from two versions of a single book, the lead role of the story is sometimes named “Clara” and sometimes “Marie.” However, in most ballet versions of the story, the little girl who dreams of a living nutcracker is referred to as “Clara.”

The main female character is called “Marie” in choreographer George Balanchine’s 1954 production of the ballet, “Maria” in the Bolshoi Ballet version and “Masha” in other Russian productions of it.

In some productions (including the famous Balanchine version staged by the New York City Ballet), she is a little girl about ten years old, and in other productions, such as the Baryshnikov one for the American Ballet Theater, she is a girl in her middle to late teens.

In the 1968 Covent Garden production starring Rudolf Nureyev for the Royal Ballet, the main character was named “Clara.”

In the 1986 film, the “Nutcracker: The Motion Picture,” the entire story of the ballet is seen through the eyes of an aged Clara, who is the offscreen narrator throughout the movie.


FOR TICKETS TO THE NUTCRACKER AT UDPAC ON NOVEMBER 17, 18 & 19 -> https://www.udpac.org/show/the-nutcracker/



*Bedinghaus, Treva. “All About the Main Female Character in The Nutcracker Ballet.” ThoughtCo, Jul. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/clara-in-the-nutcracker-ballet-1006999.


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