The Fairy Doll

The Fairy Doll, or Die Puppenfee, was premiered at the Vienna Court Opera on the 4th October 1888, a ballet which owes its inspiration to E.T.A Hoffman’s 1815 story the Sandman in which a mechanical doll comes to life.

Original designs from the 1888 production

Original designs from the 1888 production

The story also inspired Offenbach to compose the Tales of Hoffman and Delibes to write the score for Coppélia. The Fairy Doll was in turn an inspiration for La Boutique Fantasque.

Composed by the Austrian Josef Bayer the score has a regimental music flavour and was to prove the greatest ballet success for the Vienna Court Opera ever; still being performed to this day.

It was choreographed by the Court ballet master Joseph Hassreiter and Camilla Pagliero was the first to dance the role of the Fairy Doll.


The Curtain rises on a toy shop where the proprietor is mending a doll’s head, various customers and trades people arrive. An English family, a Scottish family a child with a broken doll, they are shown Ma-Ma- Pa-Pa dolls, Chinese and Spanish dolls as well as Tyroleans, harlequins, drumming bunny dolls and Finally the Fairy Doll.

The English family are enraptured by the Fairy Doll and place an order to buy her and arrange for her to be delivered. They leave and the shop closes for the night.

Anna Pavlova backstage as the Fairy Doll

Anna Pavlova backstage as the Fairy Doll

As midnight strikes the shop magically comes alive and all the dolls with pulcinellas playing tiny cymbals dance the Fairy Doll waltz followed by a triumphal march with massed battalions of drumming bunny dolls and all join in a sparkling gallop gathering around the Fairy Doll.

Disturbed by the noise the shopkeeper now rushes in but finds everything in order, he stands puzzled as the ballet ends with a tableau of dolls around their fairy queen.

Anna Pavlova danced her version of the Fairy Doll on her worldwide tours in the 1920’s adding music from Drigo’s ‘Harlequinade’ and the famous ‘Serenade pas de trios’; Diaghilev in competition commissioned Leonide Massine to create ‘La Boutique Fantasque’ to an arranged score of Rossini pieces.

Richard Slaughter recreated the Pavlova version for Ballet Creations of London’s ‘A Portrait of Pavlova’ in 1989 and staged the entire Fairy Doll Ballet for the Bournemouth Ballet Club in 1992.