Premiered on June 4, 1910 in Paris at the Theatre de l'Opera by the Ballets Russes
Choreographed by Michel Fokine
Music composed by Nicolas Rimsky-Korsakov
Libretto by Benois
Design by Leon Bakst
The one-act ballet is based on the prologue of "The Thousand and One Nights" of which Scheherazade, the legendary Persian queen, is the storyteller.
The Shahriyar, the Sultan of ancient Persia, is enjoying the pleasures and entertainment of his concubines and favorite wife Zobeide.
His brother suggests that Zobeide is unfaithful and recommends that they pretend to go on a hunting trip.
As soon as the Sultan and his brother have departed, the concubines bribe the Chief Eunuch with gifts and flattery to unlock the gates and free the male slaves.Their release ignites an orgy within the harem. Zobeide chooses the handsome Golden Slave, and they fall into a passionate embrace.
To everyone's surprise, the king returns early and, in a rage, orders that all be killed.
After all have perished and only Zobeide remains. She begs his forgiveness, but eventually realizes the futility of it all. She then stabs herself, falling at the feet of the Sultan.
Here, the ballet ends. In the original text, the story continues. The Sultan fearing future betrayals, takes a new wife each night and then has her beheaded the next morning. After having killed thousands of women, he meets Scheherazade.
After their first night, Scheherazade, who is well read in all the literature, philosophy and science, offers to tell the Sultan a story. The Sultan agrees and so she begins.
Each night, the Sultan spares her life in order to hear another story. By the end of one thousand and one nights and after Scheherazade has exhausted all of her stories, the Sultan has fallen in love with her, spares her life, and makes her his queen.