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Ballet Of The Dolls

Ballet Of The Dolls

Ballet's bright and light-hearted fairytale returns to the stage in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's sparkling end-of-year production, The New Zealand Community Trust Season of Coppelia.

Coppelia tells the story of the lonely toymaker Dr Coppelius and his collection of mechanical wonders.

As his village buzzes with harvest festival preparations, he dreams of creating a doll with a soul. The mischievous Swanilda tricks him into believing his wish has come true, by changing places with the most beautiful doll of all - Coppelia.

First created in 1870 for the Paris Opera Ballet, Coppelia has its feet firmly planted in the traditions of classical ballet. There is magic in the air, a storyline to follow, elaborate sets and costumes, and rich orchestral music.

"Tights, tutus, tiaras and all - this is classical ballet in the traditional sense," says Gary Harris, the force behind this year's restaging.

"Coppelia is three acts of pure escapism. The antics of Dr Coppelia, Swanilda and her fiancé Franz will make you laugh. There's the naughtiness and sense of mystery when Swanilda and her friends break into the toyshop at night and sneak about. It's the childish thrill of doing something and being somewhere you know you shouldn't - the anticipation and thrill of possibly being caught. Everyone can relate to that. It's innocent and charming."

Set in a make-believe world teeming with fun characters, the ballet is a spectacular showcase for the dancers' technical skills and their character acting, he says.

"Coppelia is absolute fun to dance. It suits a company like the Royal New Zealand Ballet, as the roles of Swanilda and Franz are best suited to younger dancers. It's the perfect introduction to ballet if you've never seen a classical work before," he says.

The production stars the legendary Sir Jon Trimmer as Dr Coppelius. Says Harris: "Dr Coppelius is one of the great all-time roles for a character artist. Sir Jon brings so much warmth and experience to the stage. In his 45 years in the theatre, he has performed in eight different productions of Coppelia."

From the bustling village to Dr Coppelius' darkly-enchanted workshop, the production is a visual feast. Characters are elaborately dressed in colourful, jewel-encrusted costumes, even the peasants. It's what audiences have come to expect from Wellington-born Fredrikson, "whose name", The Weekend Australian observed, "is synonymous with opulence".

Delibes' happy-go-lucky score features melodic national dances, descriptive passages introducing the main characters, and musical effects that have captured hearts for more than 130 years. Orchestras in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch will perform it live.

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