Vsevolojsky persisted and eventually convinced Petipa to take charge of the production and to write a new scenario. Petipa’s creation of the Sugarplum Fairy to rule the Kingdom of Sweets (an excuse for a fashionable set of divertissements) and the relegation of Drosselmeyer to a minor role, though satisfying to Petipa, displeased Tchaikovsky who felt these changes watered down the strength of the story. In 1891, by commissioning a one-act opera as well, Vsevolojsky convinced Tchaikovsky to participate.
Despite his misgivings about the plot and the feeling that he was not writing the music from his heart, Tchaikovsky completed the first draft rapidly by July 7, 1891. The orchestration did not begin until January 1892 and took three months to complete. “And now it is finished, Casse-Noisette is all ugliness. … It is infinitely poorer than The Sleeping Beauty,” he wrote. However as time progressed the music endeared itself to Tchaikovsky. “Strange that when I was composing the ballet I kept thinking that it wasn’t very good but that I would show them [the Imperial Theaters] what I can do when I began the opera. And now it seems that the ballet is good and the opera not so good.”
The Nutcracker premiered on December 17, 1892 by the Imperial Russian Ballet at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. Although Czar Alexander III was delighted with the ballet, critics were far less kind and The Nutcracker was not deemed a success at its first performances. Tchaikovsky died of cholera in St. Petersburg on November 6, 1893, less than a year after the first performance, and long before his ballet would see critical and commercial success.