PETROUCHKA

Story by Igor Stravinsky and Alexandre Benois
Choreography by Michel Fokine
Staged by Gary Chryst
Music by Igor Stravinsky
Scenery and costumes by Alexandre Benois
Lighting by Natasha Katz

Timing: 38:00

Scene One: Admiralty Square, St. Petersburg, in 1830, during the mid-winter Butter Week Fair – the Russian equivalent of Mardi Gras –an excess of celebration in anticipation of the stringent fasting of the Orthodox Lent. Suddenly, two drummers appear from the mysterious curtained booth at the back and clear an area in front of the booth. An old Charlatan then emerges from the booth. He bows to the crowd and, magically producing a little lute from his sleeve, plays a strange melody, then strides to the curtained booth. As he raises his hand, the curtains fly back to reveal the dolls: the Moor, the Ballerina and Petrouchka. At a sign from the Charlatan, the dolls commence a quick, jerky dance and soon dance out of their compartments into the snowy Square. The crowd is delighted and applauds enthusiastically. Then, as suddenly as they began their dance, the three dolls collapse to the ground.

Scene Two: The compartment where the Charlatan keeps Petrouchka – a black box dominated by a portrait of the Charlatan. Humiliated by the Charlatan’s cruel treatment and yearning to express the love he feels for the Ballerina, Petrouchka tries in vain to find some escape from his black cell. He forlornly plucks at the tatters of his motley costume. The Ballerina then enters, but Petrouchka’s declarations of love repel and frighten her and she leaves abruptly. Overwhelmed by despair and enraged by the portrait of the Charlatan from whose presence and power he has no escape, Petrouchka tears savagely at the walls of his cell. He breaks through the wall and collapses in despair.

Scene Three: The Moor’s cell, brightly decorated and comfortably furnished. The Moor is lying lazily on a divan, playing with a coconut. He becomes convinced he hears something inside the coconut, and when he is unable to break it open with the scimitar, he prostrates himself in front of this now sacred object. He is interrupted in his devotions by the entrance of the Ballerina who dances with a tiny trumpet to attract his attention. Soon he abandons his fetish to dance with her and finally pulls her into his lap. At this moment Petrouchka bursts into the room. The lovers spring apart and the Ballerina retreats into a corner, the Moor pursues the horrified Petrouchka, seizes him, and ejects him with a brutal kick. Triumphant, the Moor returns again to embrace the Ballerina.

Scene Four: Meanwhile, in the Square, the crowd pursues its restless quest for pleasure. It is dusk now, the sky is heavy with snow, and constant movement is the best way to ward off the cold. First the Nursemaids dance; later, as snow begins to fall, the Coachmen begin a vigorous dance. Everyone eventually joins in, and then a group of masked revelers burst upon the scene. The sky grows darker, the frenzied revels increase, snow thickens. Suddenly, a great commotion is heard from the Charlatan’s booth. Out bursts Petrouchka, pursued by the Moor and the horrified Ballerina. The Moor strikes Petrouchka with his scimitar, then flees with the Ballerina as the crowd presses close. Trembling, Petrouchka tries to rise, then falls back limp and inert. A policeman rushes off and returns with the Charlatan who calmly shows the crowd that the “corpse” is merely a doll, just sawdust and rags. The crowd, relieved, departs and the Charlatan walks slowly towards his booth, dragging the broken doll behind him. Suddenly, above the booth, Petrouchka appears. As the Charlatan looks up, Petrouchka gestures in defiance. The Charlatan drops the doll and flees in terror.

Petrouchka was given its World Premiere by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Chatelet on June 13, 1911, danced by Tamara Karsavina (Ballerina), Vaslav Nijinsky (Petrouchka), Alexandre Orlov (Moor) and Enrico Cecchetti (Charlatan). Petrouchka received its United States premiere by the same company at the Century Theatre, New York on January 25, 1916, danced by Leonid Massine (Petrouchka), Lydia Lopoukhova (Ballerina) and Adolph Bolm (Moor).

American Ballet Theatre first performed Petrouchka at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City on August 27, 1942, danced by Irina Baronova (Ballerina), Yurek Lazowsky (Petrouchka), David Nillo (Blackamoor) and Simon Semenoff (Charlatan). The Company gave its first United States performance of this production at the Metropolitan Opera House on October 8, 1942 with the same cast except for the Charlatan which was danced by Richard Reed. A second production of Petrouchka, staged by Dimitri Romanoff and Yurek Lazowsky, was given its first performance by the Company at the New York State Theatre on June 19, 1970, danced by Eleanor D’Antuono (Ballerina), Ted Kivitt (Petrouchka), Bruce Marks (Blackamoor) and Dennis Nahat (Charlatan).

This new staging of Petrouchka received its Company Premiere at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on February 4, 2005, danced by Ethan Stiefel (Petrouchka), Amanda McKerrow (The Ballerina), Marcelo Gomes (The Moor) and Frederic Franklin (Charlatan).

Previous Notes:

Music by Igor Stravinsky
Choreography by Michel Fokine
Staged by Dimitri Romanoff and Yurek Lazowsky
Story by Igor Stravinsky and Alexandre Benois
Scenery and costumes by Alexandre Benois
Scenic Supervision by Oliver Smith
Costumes Supervision by Frank Thompson
Lighting by Gilbert V. Hemsley, Jr.

World Premiere: Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, 6/13/11
Original Cast: Tamara Karsavina (Ballerina), Vaslav Nijinsky (Petrouchka), Alexandre Orlov (Moor), Enrico Cecchetti (Chalatan), Bronislava Nijinska, Ludmila Shollar (Street Dancers)
ABT Premiere: New York State Theatre, New York, 6/19/70
Cast: Eleanor D'Antuono (Ballerina), Ted Kivitt (Petrouchka), Bruce Marks (Blackamoor), Dennis Nahat (Charlatan), Sallie Wilson (Chief Nursemaid), Marcos Paredes (Chief Coachman), Diana Weber, Zhandra Rodriguez (Street Dancers)

Previous Production:
A Burlesque in One Act
Music by Igor Stravinsky
Choreography by Michel Fokine
Story by Igor Stravinsky and Alexander Benois
Decor after Alexander Benois
Premiere:
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 8/27/42
Cast: Irina Baronova (Ballerina), Yurek Lazowsky (Petrouchka), David Nillo (Blackamoor), Simon Semenoff (Charlatan), Jeanette Lauret (Chief Nursemaid), George Skibine (Chief Coachman), Jerome Robbins, Nicolas Orloff (Grooms), Rosella Hightower, Jean Hunt (Street Dancers)


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