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Photo courtesy of David Allen

Dancing with the star

When Joseph strikes his doomed bargain with the devil in Igor Stravinsky’s wonderfully spare and jazzy The Soldier’s Tale, which opens this month at the Aurora Theatre, he’ll have one thing going for him: He’ll get to dance with the sublime Muriel Maffre. San Francisco Ballet fans who still pine for Maffre’s lyrical and incisive grace (she retired from the company in 2007) can relish her every move in the Aurora’s cozy arena. Joseph, in a beguiling bit of casting, is a four-foot-tall, Bunraku-style puppet.

Maffre also codirects—with the Aurora’s Tom Ross—this showy, cross-disciplinary version of Stravinsky’s mordant musical fable (which premiered in 1918 as L’Histoire du Soldat). Their production blends dance, puppetry, acting, and narration with a score, performed by famed local chamber ensemble Earplay, that capers from military marches to tangos to Dixieland to ragtime.

According to the terms of his Faustian deal, Joseph must trade his fiddle to obtain a book that predicts his fortune. Such a bargain seems understandable in today’s economic climate, but Maffre sees Joseph’s story as a cautionary tale for artists. “The devil is seducing Joseph to abandon his art form to become rich,” she says. “It’s just like Hollywood.”

Aurora Theatre
Nov. 11–Dec. 18
2081 Addison St., Berkeley