29 May - 01 June
Ballet by Fikret Amirov
100 years since the birth of Fikret Amirov
Choreography Eldar Aliev
The ballet begins with an overture consisting of themes from Act I and Act II. Pulsating drums signal the rising of the curtain which reveals the palace of Shakhriar, a powerful sultan and skillful hunter. As Shakhriar dances with his wife, Nurida, the sultan’s friends arrive and invite him to join them on a hunting expedition. Torn between his love for his wife and his affection for hunting, Shakhriar departs after Nurida persuades him to go.
Nurida dances a reflective variation which she concludes by striking a gong three times. The sounding of the gong signals the beginning of an orgy during which Nurida enjoys the pleasures of her favorite slave. Shakhriar returns suddenly and the debauchery ceases. As the participants cautiously depart, the enraged sultan summons executioners to kill Nurida. Left alone with his rage, the sultan decides that all the young women of the kingdom will join Nurida in death. The executioners appear along with the women who cry for mercy. Unaware of what has happened, Scheherazade wanders into the scene of the slaughter. She is seized by the executioners, but Shakhriar, overwhelmed by her beauty, intervenes. The sultan struggles with his rage at Nurida and the unsuspected affection he feels for Scheherazade.
As the curtain rises, Shakhriar has just halted the execution of Scheherazade. Scheherazade pleads for her life, asking that she be allowed to redeem herself by educating the sultan in the wisdom, beauty and loving characteristics unique to women. A gifted storyteller, Scheherazade avoids the executioner as long as she keeps the interest of the sultan.
The first story she tells is of Sinbad and the Enchanted Bird. An evil Rook has fallen in love with a maiden who does not return his favor. The Rook has cast a spell on her, which has turned her into a bird. The Rook wants the love of the Enchanted Bird, but she rejects him, choosing death rather than his control. Sinbad rescues the Enchanted Bird by killing the Rook, thus returning the maiden to human form. Shakhriar is moved by the story, but the wound inflicted by Nurida is still too fresh to permit him to spare Scheherazade.
The next story Scheherazade tells is of Aladdin. Having found a lamp, Aladdin cleans it on order to sell it for money to buy bread. Unaware he is being watched by the Magician, Aladdin rubs the lamp causing a Genie to appear. The magician decides to steal the lamp and follows Aladdin as he goes into the market place with his friends. Horns announce the approach of the princess Budur, whose beauty has never been seen by anyone in the kingdom. Everyone in the market place bows down, but Aladdin’s curiosity causes him to look at the princess. While Aladdin is unable to take his eyes from the Princess Budur, the Magician steals the lamp. Later, struck with the idea of using the lamp’s power to win the hand of the princess in marriage, Aladdin realizes the lamp is gone. He finds the lamp in the hands of the Magician. In a struggle over the lamp, Aladdin is victorious. With the help of the Genie, Aladdin and Budur are joined forever,
Allowed to continue her stories, Scheherazade tells of Ali Baba, a maker of pots who finds the grotto of a band of thieves. Ali Baba follows the thieves into the hiding place and helps himself to their bounty. Ali Baba is discovered and chased home by the thieves. In an effort to capture Ali Baba, the thieves hide in the pottery outside his house. The leader knocks on the door which is answered by Marjana, Ali Baba’s wife, who attempts to distract the leader while Ali Baba makes his escape. She fills the pottery outside the house with hot oil, and together with Ali Baba, kills the leader of the thieves.
With her stories, Scheherazade wins pardon from her execution. As she dances with the sultan, the hunters return inviting Shakhriar to join them. He leaves with the hunters and Scheherazade finds herself alone. She strikes the gong three times, summoning the characters of her stories. Having recently been betrayed, the suspicious Shakhriar returns suddenly to find Scheherazade’s revel with her imaginary friends. Delighted with Scheherazade, the sultan pledges his eternal love.