ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The beloved ballet “The Nutcracker” is coming to life in Rochester once again. For the 17th year, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Rochester City Ballet are telling the tale of a young girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a battle against the Mouse King

“It’s a story of mystery, magic,” Rochester City Ballet Artistic Director David Palmer said. “Is it a dream? Is it not? Is it real? It’s got sword fights and battles and a little bit of amorous love as well, a young boy and a young girl growing up a little bit along the way.”

The magic isn’t just created through the story however, but by Rochester’s premier orchestra and ballet company coming together as one.

“One of the exciting things about collaborating with a ballet company is that the energy of performance works in both directions,” RPO Principal Conductor for Education and Community Engagement Michael Butterman said. “I know the dancers are inspired by having the actual orchestra in the pit and I know that we in the pit are inspired by the fact that they’re actual dancers that are responding in real time to what we’re doing. It’s a really alive feeling that exists when two organizations are collaborating in real time.”

“This is a classic tale, one of the great ballets of the canon and to put these two organizations together, I think just raises the bar,” Palmer said. “At the same point and time, for the hundreds of young student dancers that is inherent in The Nutcracker production it’s amazing, exciting, adrenaline filled week.”

For 15 years, Butterman has conducted the RPO in this two-act ballet.

“As many times as I’ve conducted the Nutcracker and we’ve played it, what makes it fresh for me is knowing that there are always people in the audience that are experiencing it for the first time, maybe some of them that are experiencing live orchestra music for the first time,” Butterman said.

On the flip side, Palmer is debuting his unique ideas in the show. He urges even long-time comers to spot subtle changes from prior years.

“You might look what’s under the tree,” Palmer said. “We’ve added a little bit of bang and a little bit of bling, some new costumes, a few new elements here and there, but I think those who’ve seen this production many, many times before are really going to enjoy what’s a little bit different.” 

No matter if you are here for the first time, or the seventeenth, Butterman and Palmer said it's a great way to usher in the holiday season.

“The holidays are all about traditions of course and one of the most important are those that bring families together,” Butterman said. “When families are gathering for Thanksgiving holidays, I think it’s a really wonderful addition to that celebration that we have The Nutcracker performances available for people to attend. I know that many, many families have been doing it for years and years and count it as part of their holiday traditions.”

The show runs Friday and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. A performance will also take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets start at $23, and are available online at, by phone at 585-454-2100, or in person at the RPO’s new Patron Services Center,108 East Avenue, and at all Wegmans That’s T.H.E. Ticket! locations.