Music by Josef Bayer Libretto by Joseph Haßreiter and Franz Gaul Choreography by Konstantin Sergeyev
Die Puppenfee was first staged in Russia in 1897. This one-act ballet was originally created by brothers Nikolai and Sergei Legat and staged across Europe. to the music of Josef Bayer. Die Puppenfee premiered at the Hermitage Theatre on 7 February 1903. Nine days later, the ballet was mounted at the Mariinsky Theatre in the sets and costumes of Léon Bakst, marking the start of his career as a famous theatrical designer. The ballet is set in a toy shop in St Petersburg in the middle of the nineteenth century. Brisk trade goes on during the day; when night falls, the dolls miraculously come to life. The poor little errand-boy who works at the toy store is drawn into this magical world. When morning comes around, everyone returns to their places. The dolls retreat to their shelves and boxes, and the boy returns to his work. Alexander Benois called Die Puppenfee a “wonderful fairytale, pure Hoffmann.” He recalled that Bakst “was carried away by his work on Die Puppenfee. An important contribution to his interest was his acquaintance with Nikolai and Sergei Legat, two first-class dancers and exquisite artists endowed with inexhaustible fantasy.” The sets and costumes authentically reproduced the historical sights and sounds of the doll bazaars in Gostiny Dvor in the 1840s–50s and Nevsky Prospekt seen outside the windows of a toy shop. The ballet was a constant fixture in the repertoires of many theatres and continues to be staged in Bakst’s designs.
A working day in a doll shop is underway. The owner gives his orders to his shop-assistants. The postman brings letters and the delivery man brings some boxes. A maid asks for a new head to be made for a broken doll. The first buyers select toys that please them. The shopkeeper demonstrates mechanical dolls to a Merchant, his wife and daughter and the family of Mr. Plumpetemer. Attempting to amaze his wealthy clients, he demonstrates the most beautiful piece he has – the Fairy Doll. She enchants the audience with her dancing – each of the girls wish to own this beautiful object. Mr. Plumpetemer and the Merchant pay and ask for their purchases to be sent home.
As soon as the last shoppers depart and the shopkeeper closes up, the dolls come to life. The Fairy invites the dolls to a ball.