Christmas in America: San Francisco

San Francisco, CA

nutcrackerOn December 24th, 1944, the San Francisco Ballet staged a full-length performance of a fifty-year-old Russian ballet scored by the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with new choreography by the company’s founder, William Christensen. It was called Nutcracker.

Originally a rather grim, German, nineteenth-century fairytale that was subsequently rewritten by the Frenchman Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers), Nutcracker has since become a perennial favourite of American children (and adults). There wouldn’t normally be anything unusual about a city ballet company performing the ballet at Christmastime; this happens now every year. What made it special in 1944 was that it was the first time it had ever been performed in America. (New Yorkers would have to wait until 1954 for a local production.)

The 1944 premiere of Nutcracker was performed by the San Francisco Ballet.

The 1944 premiere of Nutcracker was performed by the San Francisco Ballet.

So it’s become a holiday tradition that each year in December the San Francisco Ballet performs Nutcracker at the magnificent War Memorial Opera House. (The house, completed 1932, commemorates those who served in the First World War.)

Location: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue in the Civic Center
Schedule: December 8 – December 28, 2012
Production Program: why not?

And… lighted buildings!

As if the Nutcracker wasn’t enough, the Embarcadero Center buildings are outlined in 17,000 lights lights every holiday season, giving the skyline a glorious look.

Location: Embarcadero Center. The best place to see the lights is to get away from them a bit and one of the best viewing spots is from Treasure Island (exit I=80 in the middle of the Bay Bridge).

Embarcadero Center


Travelling to America? Start here.

There’s no better place than the 2AD Memorial Library to find American travel guides. We have books on all fifty states, often several for each state, as well as guides for major U.S. cities. Our collection of oversized photography books is a great place to start planning.

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