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The Fairy Doll

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Last in the "Lost and Found" film series at the Kennedy Center was a 1980's film of the original Hassreiter "Die Puppenfee," along with a film of Vaganova Academy students performing the pas de trois of the same name with music by Drigo and choreography by Legat.

The story is quite simple; it concerns a toy shop into which a wealthy but unsophisticated farmer and his family enter, as well as an English lord and his family. The owner of the toy shop displays all his mechanical dancing dolls: Chinese dolls, a Japanese doll, a harlequin, an Upper Austrian Lady, a baby doll, a moor, a Spanish doll, a Hungarian, a poet (stuffed, not mechanical), and the Fairy Doll, the most prized. The Englishman buys the Fairy Doll (just handing the shop-owner his wallet after the amounts he offers are deemed too small) and the farmer buys the harlequin and the Upper Austrian. The shop closes, and midnight approaches. The Fairy Doll steps out of her case and summons the other dolls out of theirs. They dance, along with several toys that have come to life: chess pieces, a cello, a hammer, bowling pins, &c. At one o'clock, they all step back into their cases, but the shop-owner has heard a noise, and comes into the room with a light. The Fairy Doll's case lights up and she stepes out of it to confront him. Suddenly, all the lights go up, and he is surrounded by the dolls. The curtain falls.

It's a gem of a ballet. Easy to understand, clear mime, an imaginative concept (the baby doll sings "Papa, Mama" for example), the dances are interesting but not unharmoniously technical. Ideal for a student production, perhaps as a springtime companion to Nutcracker, especially as it is only about an hour long, with no intermission. It gets to the point, there's no "filler" (unlike "Excelsior"). Pointework is not overused (only one variation is en pointe--the drummer girl). Delightful:).

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Yes; that's correct. I'd hoped I made that clear in my post above, but I guess not:(! Also, it would have been more accurate of me to say "the Legats," as both brothers choreographed it, apparently. Jackson said it was for Kschessinska, not Pavlova, but I'd heard before that it was for Pavlova.

Are you certain it's from Harlequinade, though? Someone asked that of Jackson, and he said he had not heard it in either Balanchine's version, Romanov's version, or an old Russian staging at the Maly Theater in St. Petersburg. Perhaps it just didn't get used...?

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I passed these comments along to George Jackson and got this response:

Music for the Pas de Trois in the St. Petersburg "Fairy Doll" is certainly by Drigo and not Bayer. But it was added by the Legat brothers in 1903. That the  choreography is by the Legats for themselves makes sense due to the similar/mirror male roles. That also is indicated by Maryinsky sources. Pavlova danced the Spanish variation in the Legats' 1903 staging. Later, for her own  

company, she danced an "enhanced" version of the title role with choreography by Ivan Clustine (who had already staged a version in Moscow prior to the one by the Legats). None of the "Harlequinade/H's Millions" I've seen (Boris Romanov's for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, George Ge's for the Finnish  

National, George Balanchine's for NYC Ballet, and a presumed Petipa revival for the Maly) have anything that corresponds choreographically to the Pas de Trois. Let's not take the credit away from the Legats without better evidence. ....


Where does the Drigo music come from? Perhaps from "Harlequinade",  but it was in repertory in Petersburg in 1903. Would Drigo (who was still alive then) have used the identical measures in 2 ballets? I suspect that it may have come  

either from another Drigo ballet or was composed for "Fairy Doll" and when that went out of the regular repertory, the music may have found its way into "Harlequinade". But that's guess work.  

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Pamela, as far as I know, the Vaganova Academy performs the Legat version with added dancing. I would dearly love to see that version, too, but I have to say the original was very charming even though only one dancer was en pointe and the title role didn't dance at all!

The tape we were shown of the Vaganova Academy students performing the Legat pas de trois was very interesting and detailed. The only version I'd seen before was the current Maryinsky version, which is almost identical to that performed by the Universal Ballet Academy. It was very nice, and a cute pas de trois, but it lacked some small details that were in the film that I would not like to see lost.

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I've seen the Legats' pas de trois danced by Kirov dancers as part of a divertissment programme some years ago and remember the 'mirror image'choreogrqaphy for the men very well. Don't remember the music at all though.

But according to Horst Koegler, the complete ballet "with Hassreiter's choreography more or less intact", has frequently been revived in Vienna and was filmed for Austrian tv in 1971. Was that the film shown at the Kennedy Centre?

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