There'll be some coal in Orange County ballet fans' Christmas stockings this year: American Ballet Theatre has canceled the world premiere of its much ballyhooed new production of "The Nutcracker," which had been slated for December at the Performing Arts Center.
Citing shaky finances, the company has backed out of its two-week engagement at the Center, where officials had no immediate comment on plans to fill the now-vacant Nov. 29-Dec. 8 slot.
This is the second cancellation this year of a premiere ABT was to have given in at the Center. A new ballet by Clark Tippet was to have been unveiled there in March.
According to a statement issued by ABT on Friday, "the company had funding in place" for the new staging of "Nutcracker" by Canadian choreographer Brian MacDonald, which subsequently was to have been performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington. But, according to the statement, the board decided that "the overall ongoing financial viability of American Ballet Theatre is best served by postponing the production for one year."
ABT's board wants time "to place greater emphasis on deficit reduction and general operating funding," the statement continued. A spokesman said the company has an operating deficit of about $2 million.
Meanwhile, the company has no other production of "Nutcracker" to fall back on. Artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov left the company in 1989 and has refused to allow further ABT performances of his staging, which was presented in Costa Mesa in 1986.
The remainder of ABT's 1991-92 season--which includes a one-week stint in Costa Mesa in February--is not affected, said company spokesman Robert Pontarelli.
Refunds will be offered to subscribers who had purchased "Nutcracker" tickets, according to a Center statement released Friday. Tickets to individual performances had not yet gone on sale. A spokesman said that "the Center will contact subscribers by mail in the next few days to advise them on refund procedures."
"Nutcracker" had been the centerpiece of the Center's 1991-92 highly touted fifth anniversary dance season, which began in August with one week of the Royal Ballet of Great Britain and continues with National Ballet of Canada (Oct. 8-13) and ABT (Feb. 4-9).
"This is a very difficult time for all arts organizations," Center president Thomas R. Kendrick said in a prepared statement. "Most were financially strained before the recession, and every year it seems to get more and more difficult to keep the financial pillars in place to support this country's great performing-arts companies."
ABT also canceled its two-week August engagement at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles because of money problems.