St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre


ballet by Farid Yarullin


Conductor: Conductor: Alexei Repnikov

Premiere of the ballet Shurale: 12 March 1945, Tatar State Opera House, Kazan
Premiere of the second version of the ballet Shurale (under the title Ali-Batyr): 28 May 1950, Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet (Mariinsky Theatre)
Premiere of the revival of the second version of the ballet: 28 June 2009, Mariinsky Theatre

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes
The performance has two intervals

Age category 6+


Music by Farid Yarullin
Libretto by Ahmed Faizi and Leonid Yakobson after motifs from Tatar folk tales
Choreography by Leonid Yakobson (1950)

Full revival of the 1950 production
Musical Director and Conductor – Valery Gergiev
Designers:  Alexander Ptushko, Lev Milchin & Ivan Ivanov-Vano
Production Choreopgraphes and Coaches – Ninella Kurgapkina, Tatiana Terekhova,
Redzhepmyrat Abdyev, Nina Ukhova, Alexander Matveyev & Annelina Kashirina
Principal Coach – Vyacheslav Khomyakov
Revival Designer – Batozhan Dashitsyrenov
Lighting Designer – Alexander Naumov
Costume Revival Designer and Technician – Tatiana Mashkova
Musical Preparation – Lyudmila Sveshnikova


Act I
Ali-Batyr, a young hunter, appears in the dense forest. Seeing a bird fly past, he sets off after the bird. The evil master of the woods Shurale emerges from the trunk of a tree. Genies, witches and evil spirits entertain their master with dances. As the sun begins to rise, the evil spirits hide. A flock of birds comes down on the clearing. They transform into young maidens. The last to abandon her wings, the beautiful Syuimbike follows them into the woods. Shurale, keeping an eye on her from behind a tree, steals her wings. The girls perform merry round dances in the clearing. When it’s time to start off, the girls pick up their wings and, transformed into birds, take to the skies. Only Syuimbike is left to wander around, having been unable to find her wings. Suddenly terrible Shurale appears before her and orders the evil spirits to surround the girl. She is a prisoner and terrified. Shurale is prepared to celebrate his victory, but Ali-Batyr rushes out from the forest and hurries to Syuimbike’s assistance. He begins a fight with Shurale. The youth knocks the monster down to the ground with one powerful blow. In vain, Syuimbike and her saviour look for the wings everywhere. Tired of the fruitless search, in torment Syuimbike falls asleep. Ali-Batyr carefully picks up the sleeping maiden and leaves with her. The defeated Shurale threatens Ali-Batyr with a pitiless revenge for having kidnapped the bird-maiden from him.

Act II
All the fellow-villagers have come to Ali-Batyr’s courtyard to a banquet in honour of Ali-Batyr and the beautiful Syuimbike. А beautiful bride is on the luxurious carpet. The matchmakers hide her, and, in accordance with custom, the groom must find her. The guests make merry and the children romp around. The bride alone is sad. Syuimbike is unable to forget her lost wings. The celebration ends. The guests depart. Unnoticed by anyone, Shurale slips into the courtyard. Seizing a suitable moment, he throws Syuimbike her wings. In delight, the girl hugs them to her breast and wants to fly off, but in indecision she stops: she would be saddened to abandon her saviour. But the desire to take to the skies is stronger. Syuimbike takes to the air in flight. Immediately she is surrounded by a flock of carrion crows sent by Shurale. They force her to fly towards the lair of their master. Ali-Batyr sees the white bird flying away in the sky, beating her wings inside the circle of black crows. Seizing an incandescent torch, Ali-Batyr follows in pursuit.

In Shurale’s lair the bird-maiden is languishing in captivity. The girl rebuffs Shurale’s advances. Ali-Batyr runs onto the clearing. At Shurale’s demand, the witches, genies and Shurale’s minions attack the youth. Ali-Batyr sets light to Shurale’s lair. All its inhabitants perish in the fiery flames. Ali-Batyr and Syuimbike are alone amidst the storming inferno. Ali-Batyr hands the maiden her wings – the only way to salvation. But Syuimbike does not wish to abandon her beloved: she throws her wings into the flames. Then the forest fire suddenly dies away. Ali-Batyr and Syuimbike return to the village. Ali-Batyr’s parents, friends and the matchmakers wish happiness to the groom and his bride.

Leonid Yakobson’s Shurale is a colourful ballet fairytale. The music, full of ethnic intonations, was written by the Tatar composer Farid Yarullin, while the libretto is loosely based on wise Tatar fairytales. On stage, birds magically turn into beautiful maidens, while the dense forest is crawling with all kinds of evil spirits – genies, shaitans, and witches – who entertain the evil master of the woods, Shurale, with dances. Meanwhile, the nearby Tatar village is hosting a grand wedding celebration…All the characters speak different choreographic languages: the world of Shurale and his monstrous subordinates in the forest kingdom is expressed through grotesque elements, the fantasy world of the bird-maidens is based on classical dance, while the folk scenes are mostly told using the expressive means of character dance. As the tradition of folk fairytales goes, goodness and love win over evil in Shurale. The evil and cunning master of the woods, Shurale, is defeated by the young, handsome, and righteous Ali-Batyr, who is fighting for justice and love. However, Shurale turned out to be victorious in the historic battle for having the ballet named after him. In fact, the original production staged in Kazan was later transferred to the Leningrad stage in 1950. The name of the production was changed from Shurale to Ali-Batyr as it was considered improper to name a Soviet ballet after an evil spirit. Nevertheless, the historical justice triumphed in the end and today the name of the evil spirit graces the Mariinsky Theatre playbill, inviting the public to see the impressive production with diverse dances and entertaining storyline.

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