Te Raukura ki Kāpiti's Coastlands Theatre was packed last week, sold out, in anticipation of two of New Zealand's most prestigious performing arts groups about to perform in Kāpiti.
The Soldier's Tale presented by The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in association with the Royal New Zealand Ballet is a mesmerising pocket theatre masterpiece of music, dance and theatre written by Igor Stravinsky in 1918.
Written during the deadly 1918 influenza pandemic, Stravinsky departed from the large scale ideas of musical performances dominant in the 19th century, designing The Soldier's Tale to be easily toured and performed by a small ensemble of performers in small locations.
He included speech, mime and dance beside music written for a distinctive assortment of instruments and inspired by popular music of the period, including tango and ragtime.
With the music often performed on its own, the NZSO's collaboration with the RNZB meant the audience could take in the whole story based on a classic Russian folk tale which had everything from laughter to drama and tight, seamless transitions between the dancers, actors and musicians.
The compelling narrative starts with a soldier who departs from his duties, making a deal with the devil.
Throughout the performance the narrator played by Peter Hayden voices the soldiers' thoughts.
Upcoming actor Sepelini Mua'au stars as the soldier who is longing to reach home, being tempted and tried along the way.
With the Coastlands Theatre holding just over 300 seats, the small theatre allowed the audience to see the hope and despair written in Mua'au's face as he navigates his way as the soldier through temptation and heartbreak.
With Sophie Hambleton playing the devil, her compelling performance trying to lure the soldier toward a life of riches had the audience captivated.
Leonora Voigtlander and Jamie Delmonte from the Royal New Zealand Ballet completed the cast, miming the actions of the devil and soldier adding an extra element to the performance before the princess wakes up and performs a duet with the soldier.
The show was directed by Sara Brodie and choreographed by RNZB choreographer in residence Shaun James Kelly.
"As a choreographer, I take huge inspiration from the music," Kelly said.
"I like an audience to feel the music and movement moving together and I had such fun pairing my choreographic style with this wonderful Stravinsky score played so powerfully by the NZSO.
"With many varieties of musical influences such as tango, waltz and ragtime – it gave me a great opportunity to tell this story of the new lovers, ultimately creating a light-hearted and contemporary spin on classical ballet."
With a small ensemble of seven musicians effortlessly led by NZSO principal conductor in residence Hamish McKeich, the performance took the audience on a journey through tango, waltz and ragtime, before bringing us back to Kāpiti.
The performance is part of the NZSO's Setting Up Camp tour where the NZSO presents a series of concerts, community, and education events in smaller centres over three days.
This is the second time the NZSO have played at Te Raukura, with the first time being the centre's opening season last year.