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Alexander Benois' Petrushka

The Ballet Russe Collection

© 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Ballet-burlesque in 4 scenes.
Libretto by Alexander Benois and Igor Stravinsky.
Choreography by Michel Fokine.
Music by Igor Stravinsky.
Sets and costumes by Alexander Benois.
Premiere: Paris, June 13, 1911, by the Ballets Russes de Serge de Diaghilev.

Petrushka (or, with French spelling, Petrouchka) came into the repertoire of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo during the early years (1938-42).

The following synopsis of the ballet is quoted from Lincoln Kirstein's Movement And Metaphor (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970):

 I. 'Butter Week' in Petersburg , 1830; a street-fair. A show booth; behind, the Admiralty's needle spire. A crowd of peasants, police, street dancers, gypsies, with a hurdy-gurdy fill the street. A bearded old Showman steps through the curtains of his booth; when drawn, they reveal puppets, sprawled on armatures: Blackamoor, Ballerina, and Petrouchka. The showman... makes his dolls budge, then dance. A drum-roll (Tambour de Provence) is heard. II. Petrouchka's dark den, exuding a cold northern climate, stenciled with icy stars. He is kicked inside by the Showman and tries to escape. Ballerina enters stiffly on toe - a silly puppet, but beautiful to him. His japes and tricks do not impress her, and she leaves, ignoring his love. Abandoned, he pounds the paper walls. III. The Moor's room, warm south - rich, red, painted with palms. He sprawls on the divan, juggling a coconut. His scimitar can't crack it; it must be a god. He worships it. The Ballerina struts in, blowing her tin trumpet. The Moor loves her. Petrouchka enters; the lovers spring apart. The Moor chases Petrouchka, boots him out, and sets the Ballerina on his lap again. IV. The street fair; night. The busy crowd includes coachmen, nursemaids, a dancing bear, ribbon vendors, masked revelers; commotion from the show booth. The Ballerina in pursuit, Petrouchka, chased by the Moor's scimitar, is struck down. Blood on the snow. When police arrive, the Showman can point only to his doll's sawdust stuffing. The crowd disperses. Suddenly, above the booth, Petrouchka is seen alive, jiggling and quivering. The charlatan is amazed and terrified. His risen doll is immortal. Snow falls.

Much of the set for Petrushka consists of hard scenery. The only soft goods in the Butler Ballet's collection are the act curtain, a set of legs, three different borders, and the two-part curtain probably acting as transition between the scenes. The latter is a larger version of the charlatan's puppet theatre curtain.

Below are pictures of these different pieces.

Act curtain with red border

Act curtain with legs

Entr'acte curtain (larger version of Charlatan's puppet theatre curtain)


Reproduction, including downloading of Benois works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.