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Magic unfolds on Popejoy stage with ‘Aladdin’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Magic carpets, caves of wonder and a wicked sorcerer invade Popejoy Hall with “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” next weekend.

The New Mexico Ballet and the New Mexico Philharmonic will present this classic story set to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov in their annual spring production. More than 70 dancers ranging in age from 8 to 60 will join conductor David Felberg and the musicians in dancing the story.

bright spotThe music incorporates excerpts from “Scheherazade,” “The Golden Cockerel” and the “Dance of the Tumblers” from “The Snow Maiden.”

“We put this thing together completely from scratch,” Felberg said. Felberg is the associate concertmaster of the New Mexico Philharmonic. Choreographer Natalie Harris “would come to me and say, ‘I’m looking for this kind of theme.’ I pointed to a part of the music that would fit.”

Based on the tale from “The Book of One Thousand and One Nights,” the story of Aladdin has permeated pop culture from the silent film era to video games, the Muppets and Walt Disney. Cole Porter penned a musical comedy version in 1958; a Bollywood adaptation appeared in 2009. Cartoon stars including Popeye, Donald Duck and Mr. Magoo performed in cartoon variations.

“I think everybody’s familiar with the story of ‘Aladdin,’ ” Harris said. “The challenge has been it’s not the strictly classical ballet; it’s going more toward neoclassical or contemporary.

“It’s been a challenge for me to go past the prim and proper,” she added. “Yes, we’re a ballet company, but we’re diverse; we can do other styles.

“I don’t think we have a single tutu.”

Aladdin is a street rat in Old Arabia working with his best friend Abdul. Princess Jasmine is a beautiful girl who escapes the palace in search of a husband. Soon Aladdin meets Jafar, the sultan’s consultant.

“He’s trying to trick the sultan into marriage with Jasmine so he can get the palace,” Harris said.

Jafar traps Aladdin in a cave of wonders, where he discovers a magic lamp housing a genie. He’s surrounded by the glittering temptation of treasures and jewels.

Jude Gallegos’ elaborate costumes resemble those from the 1992 animated Disney movie, Harris said.

Screen projections will provide backdrops of the old streets of Arabia, the palace, the cave of wonders and the garden.