Harlequin and Columbine are in love, but Columbine’s father, Cassandre, disapproves of the penniless Harlequin and is determined to marry his daughter off to the wealthy Léandre. To keep the young lovers apart, Cassandre locks Columbine in the house and instructs his loyal servant Pierrot to keep watch and guard the key. However, Pierrot’s wife, Pierrette, is sympathetic to Columbine and, at Columbine’s urging, attempts to steal the key.
In the square, a band of masked dancers celebrate the end of another hectic week. As they depart, Harlequin arrives with his friends to serenade Columbine. With Pierrette’s help, Columbine escapes from her father’s house and shares a tender scene with Harlequin. Pierrot observes them from the balcony and dashes off to warn Cassandre, who sends his henchmen in pursuit. In the melee, Harlequin is pushed from the balcony onto the street below. Realizing that he is dead, the henchmen attempt to conceal the body, and a group of passing soldiers fail to notice that anything is amiss. Cassandre tries to silence the guilt-ridden Pierrot until Harlequin miraculously comes back to life and chases the men away.
The Good Fairy, protector of lovers, reveals herself to Harlequin, who thanks her for bringing him back to life and asks for her help to marry Columbine. She gives him a magical slap stick that will grant his wishes.
The pompous Léandre arrives at the house to woo Columbine. He attempts to serenade her but is abruptly beaten by a band of little Harlequins. Cassandre and Pierrot discover the injured Léandre and are convinced that Harlequin masterminded the attack.
Harlequin returns and uses his slap stick to reunite with Columbine. The happy couple departs while Cassandre and Pierrot, trapped by Harlequin’s magic, look on in vain.
Many have gathered to celebrate the wedding of Harlequin and Columbine. The Good Fairy officiates, disguised as a notary. Cassandre interrupts the ceremony to demand that Columbine return home to marry Léandre. She refuses, and Cassandre orders his henchmen to attack Harlequin, who escapes with the help of his slap stick. The Good Fairy intervenes and urges Cassandre to relent. Cassandre objects, insisting that Harlequin is in no position to support his daughter. The Good Fairy draws his attention to Harlequin, who waves the slap stick to reveal an abundance of riches. Cassandre yields and agrees to bless the union.
Pierrot begs Pierrette to forgive him, and the festivities culminate with a grand divertissement depicting Columbine as a young lark and Harlequin as a hunter determined to win her heart. As it comes to a close, all join together in a dance of joyous celebration.
Harlequinade, under the title Les Millions d’Arlequin, with choreography by Marius Petipa, received its World Premiere in 1900 at the Hermitage Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. At the time, Petipa had been Chief Choreographer at the Mariinsky Theatre for thirty years and had already created such well-known ballets as The Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, La Bayadère, and Swan Lake. Harlequinade was one of the last ballets choreographed by Petipa prior to his retirement.
This current production of Harlequinade, with choreography by Marius Petipa and staging by Alexei Ratmansky, received its World Premiere on Monday, June 4, 2018 at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York. The choreography is a reconstruction of Petipa’s original steps, recreated using Stepanov notations from the Harvard Theatre Collection. The production features sets and costumes by Robert Perdziola inspired by the original 1900 designs by Orest Allegri and Ivan Vsevolozhsky.