Catching the Nutcracker at the Teresa Carreño

Caracas's flagship Teresa Carreño Theater has no coffee in the coffeeshop and no tickets in the ticket booths. What it does have, though, is Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. And it remains magnificent, just as it has been for the last 20 years.

My boyfriend Carlos loves Black Sabbath, but he also loves classical music. While I go on YouTube to search for Jimmy Kimmel’s mean tweets, he goes on it to look for bits of Mozart to play while he works.

In April he convinced me to go with him to the Centro de Acción Social por la Música to see Dudamel leading the Símon Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. In spite of any political positions one might have about Dudamel, the show was breathtaking. Carlos even went back with a friend the next day for a second take.

So when he said said: “let’s go see El Cascanueces in El Teresa Carreño… it’s with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela”, I said: “sure, why not”.

The Fundación Teatro Teresa Carreño’s “The Nutcracker” turns 20 this year. And, actually, I’ve never seen it.

The Teatro Teresa Carreño’s (TTC) production of Tchaikovsky’s classic two-act ballet is choreographed by Vicente Nebrada and executed by Ballet Teresa Carreño, Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela and Coro de Niños del núcleo Fuerte Tiuna de Fundamusical.

We tried to buy the tickets online but failed miserably. So on Sunday (December 13th) we went off to the TTC to try to get tickets for a weekday show.

“We should get tickets for Tuesday,” Carlos said, “unless we find tickets for the 4:00 p.m. show”. I thought “for today?! A SUNDAY?! Like that’s going to happen…”.

We got to the theater by 2:44 p.m.

The parking lot ticket machine was not working. We drove in and a young man with a shirt with the “Fundación Teatro Teresa Carreño” logo on it stopped us and asked “are you going to the 4pm presentation of The Nutcracker?”. Carlos said “YES!” with excitement. I thought “I really hope we get the tickets”.

We prepaid 50 bolos for parking and headed straight to the box-office. The parking lot was pretty dark and a strong smell of pee engulfed us. He grabbed my hand and we walked briskly towards the stairs.

We got to the lobby and saw a bunch of colorful booths of a Feria Navideña. We would check them out once we bought the tickets.

There was a small gathering of people around the box-office and as we walked towards it we saw two big “SOLD OUT” signs… not just for the Sunday presentation, but for every show this season.

We still asked “are you sure?” – cue the puppy eyes – … and got a “duh” sort of look.

Carlos looked dispirited. “Don’t worry…we’ll catch it next year”.

We took a quick look around the Feria Navideña and saw bisutería, some clothes, colorful handbags, a whole bunch of nacimientos in all sorts of shapes and sizes, dolls, mugs with the logos of local baseball teams… we even got the sweet aroma of christmas food (with a pinch of pee).

Then we headed to the bookstore. Carlos grabbed some magazines I’ve never seen before for a total of 160 bolos and I got 3 books for only 200 bolos: El socialismo venezolano camina por el mundo,Volumen II. Razones para una revolución and Volumen III. La revolución bolivariana. Historia, cultura y socialismo. They were out of Volume I (apparently named “Los hombres de la yuca y el maíz”), but the cashier told me to “look for it it nexts years Filven” -as Feria Internacional del Libro de Venezuela. This books are now part of a section of my personal library called “tratando de entender”.

We were just leaving when we saw a theater worker with a big stack of tickets and a small line formed in front of her. We asked around and – apparently – those tickets were for theater workers, but if they didn’t show up the tickets would be handed out. It was 3:06pm and we got in line for the golden tickets.

I was really tired. Carlos was starting to get sleepy. We just stood there checking Twitter.

As the minutes went by, an empty lobby turned into a rather crowded one. There were a lot of families, big and small. Many excited parents rushing to the theater entrance, pulling the arms of their bored-out-of-their-mind kids.

At one point, I felt surrounded by kids and thought “these chamos probably don’t know what they are here for”. To one side, a couple of small boys wearing superheroes tees were playing with Mario Bros figurines. On the other side was a cute girl twirling around in a purple dress combined with a head-band with Disney princesses on it. A couple of feet away a girl actually shouted that her mom was a “green monster” – I think she meant “The Grinch”.

Many lucky ticket-holders were going up the escalator to get in their seats while the line for the golden tickets was getting longer by the second.

It was 3:40pm. The adults seem tired. Some kids played around the lobby while other showed there best “I hate you for making me be here” face to their parents. The theater workers simply said “please, let’s move the line away from the booth”: we were blocking “The Nutcracker” merchandise booth. I didn’t think to take pictures at the time, but here is photo of the booth courtesy of Alba Ciudad 96.3FM:

FERIA4At 3:50 p.m. we didn’t know if we would get in. I counted -at least- 22 people in front of us and I heard a lady saying “she -the holder of the golden tickets- has 35 tickets”. But we can’t never forget that for every person in line there is a family of a hundred sitting around somewhere in the lobby.

We saw a lady of around 50 wearing a red scarf walking up to a family of 5 waiting in line right in front of us and offered them two tickets. Then I saw she was accompanied by an even older lady, her mom. She said she bought the tickets 3 weeks ago for two friends, but she couldn’t reach them: she wanted to reassure the family that she was not a bachaquero.

Carlos approached me and whispered: “let’s get ready to buy them if they don’t”.

At 3:57pm the lady told us “they’re yours if you want them”. We said in unison: “SOLD”. She would charge us the actual cost of the tickets: 500 bolos each. See…she was not a bachaquero.

Just to be safe, I checked the date and noticed “Patio Central”. We were pretty lucky, the seats were awesome.

We turned around and the line to get in the theater was HUGE. But the theater workers were real pros and we got in rather fast

Just as we went up the escalator, we gave each other a high-five. We couldn’t believe it: we got in!

“Go through door number 3” said a theater worker. We went inside and looked for Line L, seats 20 and 21.

Carlos asked for a couple of programs and another theater worker said: “se acabaron””. I thought: “no one can escape the paper shortage”.

The lady in seat 18 -the one that sold us our tickets- managed to get 3 programs. Not sure where or how, but she did. She gave us two and we were really thankful.

We checked out the program and the first thing that caught my eye was the list of sponsors: “Consejo Federal de Gobierno”, “BCV”, “Asamblea Nacional”, “Saime”, “Fonden”, “Bandes” and of course “Fundación Teatro Teresa Carreño”.


We suddenly heard “El Gobierno Bolivariano…something, something… welcomes you” and the lights went out. It was 4:17pm.

Just as the music began, a kid starting screaming and a mix of cuchicheo and “shhhhh, shhhhh…” filled the air. Also, – at least – 1 out of every 10 adults ignored the “no photography or video” orders and flashes and lit cel screens filled the dark space.

The curtains went up and the magic began.

I’m not a theater expert, but the set design and costumes looked charming and the music was beautifully played. The dancers did an amazing job: they had huge smiles on and you could feel their excitement. The family of the dancers and musicians starting clapping every once and again. We even got some pyrotechnic action.

I’m not sure when, but the cuchicheo simply stopped and all you could hear were the kids gasping and giggling with excitement. I though “the chamos are loving this”.

One moment was particularly special: when the christmas tree grew to dizzying heights and the Nutcracker came to life. The whole theater began to cheer, parents and kids alike. It made me smile uncontrollably.

During the intermission, some of the dancers came out to take pictures with the audience. The parents rush to get in line.

The lady from seat 18 went to the bathroom and asked me to look over her mom, so I stayed put while Carlos went to get some coffee.

I heard a dad say “son unas ratas peluas” and a couple of kids giggling. I turned around and saw them recreating the fight between the tin soldiers and the rats. It was an awesome sight.

Carlos came back seven minutes later and said “Café Venezuela had no coffee”. Ironically enough, we were not surprised.

The second part of the show was even better. I kept on smiling. At some point, I wanted to stand up and start dancing. Thank God I didn’t.

The show ended and the dancers and musicians got a standing ovation. They really deserved it.

A small girl with a messy french braid kept jumping up and down and clapping her little hands off. She had loved the whole show. All the kids did.

We headed to the parking lot. We were surrounded by smiling kids and tired parents. The parking lot was darker and the smell of wee was more intense than earlier. It didn’t matter: I couldn’t stop smiling.