TORRINGTON – Who has appeared in more performances of Nutmeg Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” than anyone, but has never taken a ballet lesson in his life?
It’s not a trick question, even though the character Thomas Evertz portrays, Dr. Drosselmeyer, has performed many tricks during his nearly 80 appearances since 2009. As the mysterious uncle of young Clara at a Christmas party at her home, Drosselmeyer produces bouquets of flowers seemingly from thin air, brings mechanical dolls magically to life and entertains guests with a puppet show. Later, he launches Clara on a fantastical coming-of-age ride to the Land of the Snow and the Land of the Sweets.
German-born Evertz said he is eagerly anticipating this, his 11th season, when Nutmeg is celebrating its 50th anniversary and “The Nutcracker” will raise the curtain on spectacular new scenery and costumes. Scenic designer Roger LaVoie of Boston designed the new set and the new Drosselmeyer costume.
“I have seen generations of dancers coming and going,” Evertz said in a recent interview. “Each performance is different because I have constantly different partners. When we do a matinee and an evening show, I have four different Claras over the two days.”
Evertz is married to Nutmeg’s artistic director, Victoria Mazzarelli. They met in Switzerland when Mazzarelli was dancing with Basel Ballet in 1985. He saw her dancing in George Balanchine’s “Concerto Barocco,” and he was so taken with her performance that he thought, “Who is this? I have to give this person a nice bouquet of flowers.”
Mazzarelli studied with Nutmeg Ballet under founder Sharon Dante and launched a professional career abroad after winning a gold medal at the New York International Ballet Competition in 1984. She and Evertz have been married 27 years and have two grown children, Adam and Alma.
Evertz studied acting at the National Conservatory for Music and Theatre in Hanover, Germany. He has appeared in German productions of “West Side Story,” “Kiss Me Kate,” and many others. This past summer, he had a singing role in Johann Strauss II’s operetta “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”) in Switzerland.
Mazzarelli returned to Connecticut in 2003 to become Nutmeg’s associate artistic director, bringing her family with her. In 2009, she said to her husband, “I think you could play Drosselmeyer.” He has been playing the part ever since.
“I have not done any other part in my life more often than that,” he said. “For me, the whole thing is the music. Everything I have to do and the attitude in which I do it, everything is in the music. We stage it every year with new dancers, young performers, and of course we have to solve a lot of problems, just like in professional theater. My advice to everyone onstage is to just listen to the music. Everything you are looking for, all the information, it’s all in the music.”
Evertz said Drosselmeyer is the oldest character in this 1892 ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, based on a tale by E. T. A. Hoffman. “But somehow he is still a child,” Evertz said. “He is childish in his joy, in his humor, in his fantasy. So he is close to Clara. He understands her, her hopes, her fantasies, her fears, and he tries to gently lead her through the night.”
Clara’s toy nutcracker doll symbolizes her childhood. When it breaks, her childhood shatters. It takes the magic of Drosselmeyer to repair the doll, which, in her fantasy, grows to life size and then comes to life.
“She falls in love with the wooden nutcracker, and in her mind the wooden nutcracker turns into a very lively young man who is just as adorable as she is,” Evertz said.
The story can be understood on many levels, but Evertz said it’s not necessary to focus on all aspects of it. “It’s sweet and beautiful for everybody who sees it and listens to it. Music is so unbelievable. When we help the audience to see the music – they hear it anyway, but to see the music – then we do a great job.”
Tickets for the 2019 production of Nutmeg Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” are now available through Nutmeg’s newly designed website, Nutmegconservatory.org. Warner Theatre performances are Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. Performances at The Bushnell in Hartford are Dec. 14 and 15 at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.