, with music by Igor Stravinsky
and choreography by Michel Fokine
, first performed in 1911. It tells of an eternal triangle
between three puppet
s, the ugly Petrouchka, the beautiful but fickle Ballerina
, and the crude but macho Moor
, all animated magically by the Showman
to give them real emotions.
After the success of the young Stravinsky's Firebird ballet, he was approached by the impresario Diaghilev. Stravinsky was working on a suite for piano and orchestra on the Petrouchka character, a traditional member of the Russian commedia dell'arte. Together he and Diaghilev plotted out the ballet, bringing in Diaghilev's choreographer Fokine; Alexandre Benois designed the set and costumes; and on 13 June 1911 the Ballets Russes premièred it in Paris, with Vaslav Nijinsky dancing the title role and Tamara Karsavina his Ballerina, and Pierre Monteux conducting.
It is set at a Shrovetide fair. The Showman sets up his stage and draws the crowds in. The puppets dance, at first on stage, but later miraculously among the crowd. The first of the four scenes is full of lively music, folk music and waltzes and so on.
The second and third scenes are backstage after the performance: Petrouchka is in love with the Ballerina, but she spurns him. Then he discovers that his rival the Moor has been successful with her. They quarrel and fight. In the final scene Petrouchka flees into the crowd, pursued by the Moor, who hacks him down with his scimitar. The shocked crowds gather round the tragedy, as one does. The Showman arrives to try to reassure them that these are just puppets. But as he is left alone with the wooden corpse in the night, the ghost of Petrouchka appears.
The ballet, described as a burlesque in four tableaux, is also known as Petrushka, but as the Western world came to know Russian ballet through the Parisian performances of Diaghilev's company, it is very commonly known by the French transliteration Pétrouchka.
Stravinsky later made other arrangements of the work, including a new form of the ballet in 1949. A concert programme or recording will always describe the ballet as "1911 version" or "1949 version". An orchestral suite created from it was first performed under Monteux in Paris in 1914, and revised in 1947. A piano arrangement for the pianist Artur Rubinstein was created in 1921.