Ballet in one act to music by Rimsky-Korsakov. Libretto (after one of the Tales of the Arabian Nights), décors and costumes by Alexandre Benois.
Created by Ida Rubinstein, Vaslav Nijinsky, Enrico Cecchetti and Serge de Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes on June 4th 1910 at the Paris Opera. The Golden Slave was the last Fokine character that Nureyev included in his repertoire in 1978 at the Met in New York with the London Festival Ballet. He danced it again in Washington and London the following year. Strangely enough, he danced this enormously sensual role again twelve years later, for a single televised gala on December 31st 1991 in Vienna. It was one of his last stage appearances before his death, since he only danced four times after that, ending his career on February 29th 1992 in the part of Carabosse when the Berlin Opera took his own production of “Sleeping Beauty” into its repertoire.
Convinced by his brother – Shah Zeman – that his favourite slave, the beautiful Zobeide, is unfaithful when he is away, Shah Shahryar pretends to go out hunting. As soon as he has left, the women in the harem persuade the Chief Eunuch to unlock the gates and set free the captive slaves, to indulge in the pleasures of love with them. The most handsome of them all, the Golden Slave, captures Zobeide who does nothing to resist his passionate embrace. Shah Shahryar bursts in at the height of the orgy and orders that all the slaves and favourites be killed. He hesitates faced with Zobeide, who begs his forgiveness, but when she sees her efforts are in vain, she prefers to stab herself at her master’s feet rather being shamefully killed like her companions. The ballet caused a stir because of the oriental beauty of Benois’ décors and costumes, which had a strong influence on fashion and the decorative arts in Paris in 1910.