Robert Tanitch reviews Scheherazade on line

Robert Tanitch reviews Scheherazade on line

The sultan’s favourite wife is caught in flagrante delicto with a Negro slave.

Orientalism was in vogue and sex and violence have always been popular, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes had a huge success with Scheherazade at its premiere in Paris in 1910.

The choreography was by Fokine. The libretto was by Benois. The erotic music was by Rimsky-Korsakov. The sumptuous costumes and exotic décor were by Leon Bakst.

The voluptuous colour dazzled. “I never saw anything so beautiful,” said Marcel Proust.

Bakst revolutionized theatrical design and he had enormous influence on fashion and interior decoration.

The lead roles were played by Ida Rubinstein and Vaslav Nijinsky. He was a Golden Slave covered in gold plate and he looked very phallic.

The frenzy is in the music. The story comes from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

The women of the sultan’s harem had persuaded the Chief Eunuch to admit the slaves (all muscular Negroes) to their quarters while their master was absent hunting.

Concubines and slaves, having been in quarantine since lockdown, had an instant mass orgy. Unfortunately for them, the sultan returned earlier than expected. Instead of he and his soldiers joining in and having a gang bang and a ball, they killed everybody.

The sultan from then on beheaded all his future wives immediately after they had consummated the marriage to make certain he was never deceived again. But that’s another story.

The close body contact, the sensual movement, the caresses, the straying hands, the kisses, the debauchery and the massacre of the whole harem, women, slaves and eunuchs, excited audiences at the Paris premiere.

There are two Russian productions of Scheherazade you can watch for free on You Tube. They each last about 45 minutes. Watch both.

The Bolshoi’s production in Moscow in 2017 stars Ilze Liepa and Victor Yeriomenko.

The Mariinski’s production in St Petersburg in 2015 stars Olga Belik and Nikolai Tsiskaridze

The Bolshoi, thinking about video audiences watching Scheherazade for the first time, have added film. During the orgy there are shots of the sultan riding back from the hunt. The tension is increased.

Click here to watch the Bolshoi performance.
Click here to watch the Mariinsky performance.

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