The only music Henrik Ibsen wrote into his play A Doll's House is the music to the tarantella, which Nora practices dancing to in preparation for the costume party she and Torvald attend on Christmas Eve. However, when the play is performed, different directors may add other music to further develop the play and their interpretation of the play as they choose.
The tarantella is an Italian folk dance that symbolizes a person being bitten by the poisonous wolf spider of the region. The poisonous bite causes hysteria in its victims. The dance became a means of trying to exorcise the poison and its symptoms. The dance also evolved into a courtship dance, danced by couples; however, since Nora is dancing a solo, she is most likely dancing the original dance representing hysteria.
The scene, found in Act 2, is an extremely emotional one. In order to distract Torvald from discovering the letter Krogstad has put in his letter box, Nora asks Torvald to direct her while she rehearses her dance in the presence of Dr. Rank. As Helmer plays, Nora dances faster and faster until Torvald begs her not to dance "so violently." Dr. Rank then takes over playing the piano so Torvald can coach her, but Nora only continues to dance "more and more wildly." Nora's wild dancing, as well as the dance itself, symbolize Nora's emotional torment. The poisonous wolf spider symbolizes Torvald and the rest of society, two aspects of Nora's life that are preventing her from fully living her life as a complete individual, thereby poisoning her existence.
Other than the inclusion of the tarantella, director Carrie Cracknell included an entire musical score to emphasize her own interpretation of Ibsen's play. Cracknell's performance is the most recent production of the play, first performed in 2012 in the Young Vic, a theater near South Bank in London. In America, the play premiered at the Harvey Theater of the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. The play's script was was written by playwright Simon Stephens; the music was composed by Stuart Earl, and reflected director Cracknell's much more deeply psychological interpretation of the play.
Cracknell's version focuses on presenting Nora, performed by Hattie Morahan, as having a psychological awakening about the extent to which she can be a deceitful, even duplicitous person, an awakening that causes severe inner turmoil. Cracknell's interpretation of the play is rather reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock psychological horror film. As such, composer Stuart Earl's music is also very reminiscent of music found in Hitchcock's films. The New York Times play critic Ben Brantley states, "Stuart Earl’s music exudes an anxious air of festivity spiraling out of control" ("A Caged Wife, Desperately Spinning Her Wheel"). Music such as the overture and song played during the scene that takes place on Christmas Eve, titled "Christmas Night," sounds festive while also containing suspenseful motifs reminiscent of motifs found in the soundtracks of such Hitchcock films as Psycho. A more specific example might be motifs found in "Flight," composed by Bernard Hermann.