The year is off to a promising start as the performing arts lights up this month with Malaysia’s first ever full-length performance of The Fairy Doll, a classic ballet that has captured imaginations since it first premiered in 1888.
Almost 150 years later, the story of the magical doll that comes to life at night will be presented by the Asia Ballet Academy and the Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, in the country’s foremost venue, the Istana Budaya. A treat for lovers of this graceful dance form!
Widely considered to be one of the Vienna Court Opera’s greatest ballets, The Fairy Doll or Die Puppenfee, was written by Austrian composer Josef Bayer and began life as Im Puppenladen (In the Doll Shop). Inspired by German fantasy Author E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Sandman, its creation was the peak of Bayer’s career and it would go on to become the most overwhelmingly successful ballet of its time in Austria.
Bayer’s charming composition, which included some of his most melodious work and one packed with orchestral effects, was matched with the choreography by Court Ballet Master Joseph Hassreiter and Designer Franz Gaul. Years later, the Legat brothers would add a famous Pas-de-Troi sequence, which would become a definitive version of the ballet.
Spread over two acts, the story is set in a toymaker’s shop filled with handcrafted mechanical dolls. Families from all walks of life pour into the shop, gazing at the creations within – among them a Chinese doll that dances the polka, an Austrian that dances a Landler, a Spanish, Japanese, Harlequin each twisting and twirling in a different way, a baby doll that crawls around and finally a Fairy Doll that dances a graceful waltz.
Later that night, after the families have long gone and the toymaker is asleep, the shop springs to magical life as the clock strikes midnight. At the centre of the activity is the Fairy Doll, around which all other the dolls and toys are dancing. In turn, they all dance her waltz, laughing and cheering as they finish in a triumphant march. Woken by the noise, the toymaker rushes in to find a silent shop with one difference – his prized Fairy Doll surrounded by all the others.
A Malaysia Twist
Joining over 80 students from the Asia Ballet Academy will be principal dancers from the revered Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida. Dancing the role of the Fairy Doll will be Janis Liu, a multi-award winning soloist from that company who has taken on leading roles including Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, the Snake in Stone Flower, and many more.
Also on the bill are Taiyu He, Kevin Zong, Kiki Fan and Arnulfo Andrade Jr, each of which have made their names in renowned ballet companies over the years. The Istana Budaya is set to be transformed by elaborate stage designs and set pieces, while dancers will be donning new tailor-made costumes, all adding up to an immersive experience. Audiences can also expect to see a few new characters in the story, including a Malaysian doll with her own unique dance!
The opportunity to catch a ballet performed in its entirety is rare in KL, so if you haven’t already, snap up some tickets for what is slated as one of the shows of the year.
The Fairy Doll
WHERE Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur
WHEN 8.30pm (18-19 Jan)