Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 13, 1911: Stravinsky's Petrushka ballet premiered

Last updated September 1, 2018.

Petrushka, ballet (burlesque) in 4 scenes for orchestra (aka “Petrouchka”)

Igor Stravinsky (composer)

Composed: 1910-11

Revised: 1947

First Performance: June 13, 1911

Sales: --

Peak: --

Quotable: Petrushka‘s “position as one of the greatest ballets remains unassailed.” – Grace Robert WK

Genre: classical > ballet


First Tableau: The Shrovetide Fair:

  1. Introduction
  2. A group of Drunken Revelers passes, dancing
  3. The Master of Ceremonies entertains the Crowd from his booth above
  4. An Organ-Grinder appears in the Crowd with a [woman] Dancer
  5. The Organ-Grinder begins to play
  6. The Dancer dances, beating time on the triangle
  7. At the other end of the stage a Music Box plays, another [woman] Dancer dancing around it.
  8. The first Dancer plays the triangle again
  9. The Organ and Music Box stop playing; the Master of Ceremonies resumes his pitch
  10. The Merry Group returns
  11. Two Drummers, stepping up in front of the Little Theater, attract the attention of the Crowd by their drumrolls
  12. At the front of [i.e. from inside] the Little Theater appears the Old Magician.
  13. The Magic Trick
  14. Russian Dance

Second Tableau: Petrushka’s Room:

  1. As the Curtain rises, the door to Petrushka's room opens suddenly; a foot kicks him onstage;
  2. Petrushka falls and the door closes again behind him
  3. Petrushka's curses
  4. The Ballerina enters
  5. The Ballerina leaves
  6. Petrushka's despair
  7. Darkness. Curtain.

Third Tableau: The Moor’s Room:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Moor dances
  3. Appearance of the Ballerina
  4. Dance of the Ballerina (cornet in hand)
  5. Waltz (the Ballerina and the Moor)
  6. The Moor and the Ballerina prick up their ears
  7. Appearance of Petrushka
  8. The Fight between the Moor and Petrushka. The Ballerina faints.
  9. The Moor throws Petrushka Out. Darkness. Curtain.

Fourth Tableau: The Shrovetide Fair (Toward Evening):

  1. Introduction
  2. The Wet-Nurses' Dance
  3. A Peasant enters with a Bear. Everyone scatters.
  4. The Peasant plays the pipe. The Bear walks on his hind feet.
  5. The Peasant and the Bear leave.
  6. A Reveling Merchant and two Gypsy Women Enter. He irresponsibly amuses himself by throwing bank notes to the Crowd.
  7. The Gypsy Women dance. The Merchant plays the accordion.
  8. The Merchant and the Gypsies leave
  9. Dance of the Coachmen and the Grooms
  10. The dances break off. Petrushka dashes from the Little Theater, pursued by the Moor, whom the Ballerina tries to restrain.
  11. The furious Moor seizes him and strikes him with his saber.
  12. Petrushka falls, his head broken
  13. A crowd forms around Petrushka
  14. He dies, still moaning.
  15. A Policeman is sent to look for the Magician
  16. The Magician arrives
  17. He picks up Petrushka's corpse, shaking it.
  18. The Crowd disperses.
  19. The Magician remains alone on stage. He drags Petrushka's corpse toward the Little Theater.
  20. Above the Little Theater appears the Ghost of Petrushka, menacing, thumbing his nose at the Magician.
  21. The terrified Magician lets the Puppet-Petrushka drop from his hands, and exits quickly, casting frightened glances over his shoulder.
  22. Curtain

Average Duration: ?


Petrushka first emerged as a ballet in 1911. Stravinsky originally undertook the work “as a kind of compositional reprieve between the completion” sup>JG of The Firebird and The Rite of Spring. His initial conception was that it be an orchestral work with a prominent piano part with the pianist “as some kind of clownish puppet come to life.” JG Sergey Diaghilev, the impresario of the Ballet Russes, heard the beginnings of another ballet and Stravinsky rerouted the “original concert scope to its full theatrical realization.” JG The story focuses on three puppets. Petrushka loves the Ballerina, but she rejects him in favor of the Moor. When Petrushka challenges him, the Moor kills him. Petrushka’s ghost returns before dying again. WK The ballet premiered on June 13, 1911, at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. WK

A decade later, Stravinsky returned to the work when pianist Arthur Rubinstein paid him to convert it into a solo piano piece. Stravinsky subsequently re-arranged Russian Dance, Petrushka’s Cell, and The Shrove-tide Fair BJ to a style more reminiscent of the work’s “initial sketches in the summer of 1910 as a concerto for piano and orchestra.” BJ

In 1947, Stravinsky revived Petrushka again to adapt it from its stage presentation to a concert format. JG In the intervening decades, he had “dedicated much of his creative energies…to developing a more economical, streamlined, objective style.” JG The revision “trims most of the wind parts” JG and brings the piano to the forefront while bringing “out certain elements of the work that had been part of its initial [pre-ballet] creative conception.” JG

A 1950 performance of the piece by L’Orchestre de La Suisse Romande, conducted by Ernest Ansermet, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

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