Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Scenario by Léon Bakst and Michel Fokine after Arabian Nights fairytales
Choreography by Michel Fokine (1910)
Reconstruction by Isabelle Fokine, Andris Liepa (1994)
Set and costume design by Anna Nezhnaya, Anatoly Nezhny after original sketches: Léon Bakst
Shahryar is angry because his brother Shakhezman has suggested that his wives are unfaithful to him. To test the harem Shahryar goes off on a hunting expedition.
Almost as soon as the court has departed the wives adorn themselves in jewels and bribe the Chief Eunuch to open the three doors which lead to the quarters where the male slaves live. Two doors are opened and the Chief Eunuch is about to leave when Zobeide, Shahryar’s favourite wife, demands that the third door also be opened. The Eunuch warns her against this, but with further bribes and pleas she insists. The door is opened and the Golden Slave leaps through it to Zobeide’s side. They fall entwined upon the divan.
Food is brought in to musical accompaniment. Dancing begins, led by the Golden Slave, and Zobeide joins it. But Shahryar has returned unannounced and bursts in upon the orgy. Slaughter follows and the revellers are indiscriminately cut down. Shahryar kills Zobeide’s lover with his own hands. Only Zobeide remains. Preferring death to dishonour she faces the Shah and then, with a dagger she grabs from him, she takes her own life.
In 1910, Shéhérazade was a great success in Paris. The fashionistas of the time, having just shouted "bravo" at Les saisons russes premiere, hurried to put on serouals and turbans à la Eastern style which were created for the production by artist Léon Bakst. Fabric manufacturers launched the production of linens with ornaments in blue and orange colours, while jewelers sold gaudy trinkets, which were reminiscent of the shiny things worn by the artists on stage, with unprecedented success. Sergei Diaghilev was hoping to make a splash with a Paris performance of the ballet written after One Thousand and One Nights with the fabulous music by Rimsky-Korsakov and oriental exotics. Fokine sought to show all actions and feelings through poses and movements in his choreography. Ida Rubinstein drove the public crazy with her regal beauty, Vaslav Nijinsky – with animal-like flexibility of his half-naked body while soaring over the stage. Such passionate orgies as in Shéhérazade had never been seen by the Parisian ballet-goers before. And while modern theatre-goers would unlikely be stunned by the scenes of passionate embraces and bloody massacre at the harem, juicy musical, artistic and choreographic elements of Shéhérazade can still fire the imagination of a sensitive spectator.
World premiere: 4 June 1910, Les Ballets Russes de Serge de Diaghilev, Théâtre de l´Opéra, Paris
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 28 May 1994
Running time 45 minutes
The highlighting of performances by age represents recommendations.
This highlighting is being used in accordance with Federal Law N139-FZ dated 28 July 2012 “On the introduction of changes to the Federal Law ‘On the protection of children from information that may be harmful to their health and development’ and other legislative acts of the Russian Federation.”