A Thousand and One Nights

Ballet by Fikret Amirov

Credits

Music by Fikret Amirov
Libretto by Maksud and Rustam Ibragimbekov

Choreography by Eldar Aliev
Set and Costume Designer: Pyotr Okunev
Lighting Designer: Sergei Martynov
Video Designer: Vadim Dulenko
Repetiteur: Alexander Kurkov
Rehearsal Directors: Natalia Raldugina, Alexandra Arkhangelskaya, Sergei Zolotarev

SYNOPSIS

ACT 1

A powerful sultan Shakhriar makes farewell to his beautiful wife Nurida. Being a passionate hunter, he leaves for hunting with his archers.

Left on her own, Nurida is not lonely for long without her husband, she orders her servants to an orgy in which her beloved Slave takes part. Sudden return  of Shakhriar terrifies all participants. Shakhriar is stunned by the deceit and betrayal of his wife.

Nurida begs for forgiveness but in vain Shakhriar is relentless and kills his cheating wife.

Mad of grief Shakhriar takes decision to execute all maids in the kingdom. The sultans executioners come to action and obey his orders. Shakhriar is ruthless as the women plea for mercy.

His gaze falls on one of the doomed maids –  Scheherazade and at the last moment Shakhriar stops her execution. Scheherazade asks him to postpone the executions and to listen to her fascinating stories praising women’s best qualities – beauty, love and wisdom. Shakhriar agrees.   

ACT 2

On the first night Scheherazade tells the sultan a story of a fair Young maid, released from the claws of an ominous bird Rukh by the fearless Sinbad. Astonished by the beauty of the Young maid Sinbad falls in love with her and they live happily ever after.

Once the night falls again, Scheherazade tells Shakhriar her next tale. It is about Aladdin, his magic lamp, princess Budur and an evil Wizard. Young Aladdin overcomes extreme dangers and trials and defeats the Wizard in the name of his love for Budur. The lovers are together forever, love triumphs once again…

Pain caused by Nurida to Shakhriar’s soul still burns within him.

The next night Scheherazade entertains the sultan with the story about forty thieves, their Chief, Ali-Baba and his wise servant Mardjana who saved her masters’ life.

Scheherazade captures Shakhriar’s heart with her beauty, chastity and delicacy. Pain in his heart gives way to love which he professes to Scheherazade.

Shakhriar goes hunting once again and leaves Scheherazade alone. She is sad missing Shakhriar. Upon his return the sultan finds Scheherazade surrounded by the characters of his beloved tales. The lovers are happy together.

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

The Orient or the Oriental tale has been a hobbyhorse for ballet theaters over the entire history of their existence. Oriental ballets are truly fairy because of special plastique, unordinary rhythms, exotically ornate melodies, gorgeous scenery, and costumes worthy to be called objets de vertu.

The ballet A Thousand and One Nights was premiered at the Azerbaijan Opera and Ballet Theatre in Baku in 1979. The music was written by Fikret Amirov (1922-1984) who had become a national pride by that time. His creative experience embraced original orchestral pieces – such conductors as Bernstein and Stokowski would include them in their concert programs – as well as operas and ballets on topics of Azerbaijani history. “I want Azerbaijanian music to be played throughout the world,” he said and boldly wove Oriental melodies into European classical forms, imitating a folk orchestra’s sounding he remembered from his childhood.

Any other Oriental culture was another source of inspiration for Fikret Amirov. Before composing the ballet he made tours of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Morocco and India. During each tour he endeavored to carefully study local traditions. “I aimed to penetrate deeply into the Arab culture of music, Arab sense of rhythm, beauty of Arab musical rites. I studied historic and architectural landmarks. I was faced with the task of making a synthesis of the national and the panhuman.”

A Thousand and One Nights became a quintessence of his creative explorations and achievements. “The ballet was conceived as a hymn to the woman, her wisdom and spiritual beauty and inspired by the national character, sapience and humanistic sounding of the outstanding medieval monument of Arab literature,” the composer wrote.  

The libretto was created by the renowned Ibragimbekov brothers: Rustam, a future coauthor of Nikita Mikhalkov’s award-winning movies, and Magsud, a writer, scenarist and film director.

They incarnated their conception in two acts of the ballet. With the truly Oriental wisdom, they made a selection from the book to choose the first and primary tale The Story of the Ruler Shahriar and his Brother. Its narration alternates with the three most popular tales told by Scheherazade: Sinbad the Sailor and the Roc, Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. All the stories demonstrate such female chief traits as love, beauty and wisdom.

In accordance with the plot, the music backcasts the coloring of the Middle East. The ballet Orient is real, not nominal. The composer includes a tar (‘traditionally crafted long-necked lute’) in the score and uses an endless repertoire of percussion instruments – bongos, tom-toms, a xylophone, a vibraphone, drums, bells, timpani, cymbals, etc. – to express the rich Arab rhythmic. Their role in the score is so all-sufficient that some scenes run accompanied by percussion only, whether solo or ensemble.

The use of a female voice on the choral background gives a special tint to the tone color. Their sounding emerges in the key moments to create a fermented mood in the beginning of the ballet or to express the grief of women doomed to death or to sing the victory of good and the woman’s force in the love duet of Shahriar and Scheherazade.

Fikret Amirov dedicated A Thousand and One Nights to his well-beloved wife. “To Aida, my helpmate” is written down on the cover page of the score.

The first night in 1979 was a triumph. The ballet truly expressed the poetry of the ancient tales in sounds, movements and pictures and dazed the audience by its originality and variety of colors.

First in Russia’s Far East the ballet-goers have an opportunity to watch A Thousand and One Nights choreographed by Eldar Aliev. Born in Baku, he staged the ballet in America and Europe over the years. The new version has been created by Eldar Aliev for the Primorsky Stage.

Natalia Rogudeeva

Premiere at the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre: 14 August 2020, Vladivostok

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes
The performance has one interval

Age category: 12+
A Thousand and One Nights
on the playbill
4 May 2024, 14:00
4 May 2024, 14:00
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