Known as the “Father of Russian ballet,” Marius Petipa was one of the most influential, and prolific, choreographers in ballet history. He created dozens of ballets for the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, including “The Nutcracker” (with Lev Ivanov) and “Sleeping Beauty,” as well as revivals of “Swan Lake” and “Giselle,” among other notable works.
One of the last ballets he created, in 1900, was “Les Millions d’Arlequin” (Harlequin’s Millions), also known as “Harlequinade.”
The ballet revolves around the familiar commedia dell’arte characters Pierrot, his wife Pierrette, Columbine, and her romantic suitor Harlequin.
Russian-American choreographer and former ballet dancer Alexei Ratmansky, the artist in residence at the American Ballet Theatre, has restaged “Harlequinade” for ABT using Petipa’s archival notes.
This co-production with Australian Ballet received its world premiere last June at the Metropolitan Opera House. Now, ABT brings the West Coast premiere of “Harlequinade” to Segerstrom Center January 17-20.
ABT Principal Dancer Stella Abrera will dance the role of Pierrette on January 17. Abrera will also dance in the January 20 matinee. Misty Copeland will make her debut as Pierrette on Friday, January 18.
“Harlequinade” is set to a score by Riccardo Drigo, which will be played live by Pacific Symphony.
In “Harlequinade,” the characters Harlequin and Columbine are kept apart by her father, Cassandre, who would prefer that his daughter marry the wealthier Lèandre. Harlequin tries to win Cassandre over, only to be turned away by Cassandre and his servant Pierrot. Finally, with the help of a Good Fairy and Pierrot’s wife Pierrette, Harlequin’s bad fortunes are turned around, and Cassandre agrees to bless the union.
Leave it to ABT to revive a seldom-staged comic ballet (George Balanchine created a revival of “Harlequinade” for New York City Ballet in 1965). According to ABT, the choreography is a reconstruction of Petipa’s original steps, recreated using notations from the Harvard Theatre Collection. The production features sets and costumes by Robert Perdziola that are inspired by the original 1900 designs.
Single tickets for American Ballet Theatre’s “Harlequinade” start at $29 and are now available online at SCFTA.org, at the Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, or by calling (714) 556-2787.