Jeu de cartes (Balanchine)

This article is about Stravinsky and Balanchine's 1937 ballet. For Peter Martins' 1992 ballet, see Jeu de cartes (Martins).

Jeu de cartes (En., Card Game) is a ballet in three "deals" by Igor Stravinsky composed in 1936–37, with libretto by the composer in collaboration with M. Malaieff (a friend of Stravinsky's eldest son Théodore Stravinsky[1]) and choreography by George Balanchine. The ballet was premiered by the American Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City on 27 April 1937, with the composer conducting. The European premier was on 13 October 1937 at the Dresden Staatsoper.[2] The New York City Ballet premiere took place on 15 February 1951 under the title The Card Game at City Center of Music and Drama, New York.

Jeu de cartes was commissioned in November 1935, although the idea of card game, especially the game of poker, didn't get firmly formed in Stravinsky's mind until after August 1936. The work was written during Stravinsky's neoclassical period, which was ushered in by one of his earlier ballets, Pulcinella, premiered in 1920.

The main character is the deceitful Joker, who fashions himself unbeatable, owing to his chameleon-like ability to become any card. There are also other cards -- Queens, Aces—and several card players portrayed in the ballet. Jeu de cartes shows that even the higher value cards, in much the same way as the people of higher position, may be occasionally defeated by the lower value cards.


The ballet takes approximately 25 minutes to perform and consists of three scenes, referred to by the composer as "deals". The entire work can also be subdivided into its tempo markings:[3]

1. First Deal (Première donne)

  • Introduction. Alla breve
  • Pas d'action. Meno mosso
  • Dance variation. Moderato assai
  • Dance of the Joker. Stringendo
  • Waltz-Coda. Tranquillo

2. Second Deal (Deuxième donne)

  • Introduction. Alla breve
  • March. Marcia
  • Variation I. Allegretto
  • Variation II
  • Variation III
  • Variation IV
  • Variation V. Sostenuto e pesante
  • Coda. Più mosso
  • Reprise of March. Marcia
  • Ensemble. Con moto

3. Third Deal (Troisième donne).

  • Introduction. Alla breve
  • Waltz. Valse
  • Battle between Spades and Hearts. Presto
  • Final Dance
  • Coda. Tempo del principio





  1. Nicholas Fox Weber, Patron Saints: Five Rebels Who Opened America to a New Art 1928-1943, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014
  2. Joan Evans,Stravinsky's Music in Hitler's Germany, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Fall 2003), pp. 525-594 (page 557).
  3. Sanderson, Blair (1999). "Stravinsky: Jeu de cartes; Orpheus; Suite: The Soldier's Tale". Rovi Corp. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
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