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Times Staff Writer

The 200th birthday of Denmark's Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote "The Little Mermaid," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Princess and the Pea" and dozens more beloved fairy tales, is being celebrated around the world this year with hundreds of events, exhibits and tours.

As many as 40,000 people are expected to attend the opening gala April 2 in a Copenhagen stadium. The two-hour performance, titled "Once Upon a Time," will present music, dance and films about Andersen, who was born in nearby Odense on April 2, 1805, and died in 1875.

Opera diva Renée Fleming, entertainer Harry Belafonte, actor Matt Dillon, the Royal Danish Ballet and China's Shenyang Acrobatic Troupe will join a cast of hundreds. Denmark's Queen Margrethe II is expected to attend. Tickets are about $63 to $467.

Throughout the year, there will be hundreds of Andersen happenings in Denmark alone. Among them:

Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens amusement park will host two special shows. The first, "A Tivoli Fairy Tale," will use puppets, pyrotechnics, dancers and storytellers to relate Andersen fables. The shows will play most nights, except Fridays, starting May 14. A new ballet, based on Andersen's "Thumbelina," will premiere July 14 at the park and run through Sept. 1.

The Royal Danish Ballet will perform in a new production of "The Little Mermaid," choreographed by John Neumeier, at Copenhagen's new Opera House. Shows will be April 15 through May 6. Tickets are about $13 to $99.

A large-scale musical staging of "The Little Mermaid" will be performed Aug. 4 to 7 on two barges moored in Copenhagen Harbor. The cast of more than 600 will be drawn from local citizens.

Starting April 1 there will be an audio walking tour, "In the Footsteps of Hans Christian Andersen," marked with more than 60 signs in Copenhagen at sites that were significant to the author. The audio will be accessed via cellphone. For more information, visit .

Several tour companies are offering Andersen-themed trips and air-hotel packages. For a list and for other information about Denmark's Andersen festival, visit , and click on "Fairy Tale Packages."

For tickets to the April 2 gala and the Royal Danish Ballet, visit BilletNet, .

More than a dozen other countries, including Japan, France and Scotland, will also host events this year to commemorate Andersen, one of the world's most widely translated writers. For more information, visit .

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