St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

 Le Spectre de la rose
 The Swan

ballet set to music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

an evening of ballets by Michel Fokine


Conductor: Gavriel Heine

Shahriar: Soslan Kulaev
Zobeide: Alina Somova
Zobeide’s Slave: Andrei Yermakov
The Odalisques: Olga BelikAlina Krasovskaya, Maria Lebedeva

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

Age category 6+


Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Scenario by Léon Bakst and Michel Fokine after Arabian Nights fairytales
Choreography by Michel Fokine (1910)

Reconstruction by Andris Liepa (1994)
Set and costume design by Anna Nezhnaya, Anatoly Nezhny after original sketches: Léon Bakst


The bored Shahriyar is being entertained by odalisques and his favourite wife Zobeide. At the advice of his younger brother Shahzeman, who is convinced of Zobeide’s unfaithfulness, Shahriyar departs to go hunting. An orgy begins in the harem, and when it is at its height the Sultan returns unexpectedly. He orders his concubines, eunuchs and slaves be killed. Zobeide prays to him to spare her life, but, not receiving Shahriyar’s consent, kills herself.

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. Olga Makarova

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