Choreographed by Michel Fokine to the symphonic poem by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, with design by Leon Bakst, Scheherazade received its world premiere by the Ballet Russe de Serge Diaghilev at the Theatre National de l'Opera, Paris, on 4 June 1910. With its narrative based on the first tale of the Thousand and One Nights, this exotic ballet exemplified Fokine's revolutionary integration of theme with dance, music and design. Australian audiences were introduced to the work in the early 1930s, when Louise Lightfoot produced her version for the First Australian Ballet. Programs for the Lightfoot production acknowledge both Fokine and Baskt as original creators but credit the choreography for this version to Lightfoot herself.
The First Australian Ballet venture was followed by authoritative productions by all three of the de Basil Ballets Russes companies that toured Australia later in the1930s. The first, the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, included Scheherazade in its Australian premiere performance at the Theatre Royal Adelaide on 13 October 1936. Leon Woizikowsky performed in the role of the Golden Slave, originally created on Vaslav Nijinsky, with Nina Raievska as Zobeide and Valentin Froman as Shah Sharyar. Fokine himself staged the production by the visiting Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938-9. In performances by the Original Ballet Russe during their 1939-40 tour, Serge Grigoriev danced as Shah Sharyar and Lubov Tchernicheva, his wife, as Zobeide, a role for which her dramatic interpretation had earned her international renown. Australian audiences were thrilled by the Ballets Russes performances of this dramatic and sensual ballet, with Bakst's lavish set and costume designs.
William Constable designed the production that entered the repertoire of the Borovansky Ballet on 9 May 1946. On opening night, Tamara Tchinarova danced as Zobeide and Martin Rubinstein as the Golden Slave. Borovansky himself performed as the Chief Eunuch, and during the opening season Kathleen Gorham made her first appearances with the company as a 'youth' in this ballet. Vassilie Trunoff's portrayal of the Golden Slave with the Borovansky company was particularly acclaimed, with his performances following his return from London in 1954 being described by Edward Pask as a 'yardstick for all subsequent performers, both in Australia and overseas'.
In 1980 the Australian Ballet, under the artistic directorship of Marilyn Jones, performed Scheherazade as part of a triple bill tribute to Edouard Borovansky. Joan Potter and Vassilie Trunoff staged this production which was designed by Greg Irvine. On opening night on 21 March, Michela Kirkaldie performed as Zobeide, Kelvin Coe as the Golden Slave, Joseph Janusaitis as Shah Sharyar, and Ken Whitmore as the Chief Eunuch. The work was next performed by the flagship company in 2006 as part of the 'Revolutions' triple-bill tribute to Fokine that was presented with the support of the research and performance project Ballets Russes in Australia: Our cultural revolution. Irina Baronova advised on this production which was staged by John Auld and featured new set and costume design by Gabriela Tylesova and lighting by Nick Schlieper. On opening night, June 23 in Melbourne, Olivia Bell danced as Zobeide, Nobuo Fujino as the Golden Slave, Steven Heathcote as the Shah and Marc Cassidy as the Chief Eunuch.
An Australian production with looser ties to the original narrative was staged by the West Australian Ballet as part of their The Source - Tribute to the Ballets Russes season in 1999. Entitled Sheherazade, this piece was choreographed by Chrissie Parrott to a score by Cathie Travers, with costume design by Francois-Noel Cherpin and lighting design by Kenneth Rayner. In the program notes, both Parrott and Travers discuss the influence of Fokine's Scheherazade on this work.
Bibliography:Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia. The Second Act 1940-1980 (Melbourne: OUP, 1982).
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Album 810/15 consists mainly of photographs taken by Jean Stewart during the mid 1940s of various productions by, and dancers of, the Borovansky Ballet. Some are performance shots, others show the dancers in rehearsal and some are photographic portraits of dancers. A number of the photographs are autographed to Lisabeth Montgomerie. Productions represented include Le Beau Danube, Capriccio italien, Facade, Giselle, Scheherazade, Sigrid, Les Sylphides, Swan Lake and Terra Australis. Dancers represented include Edouard Borovansky, Serge Bousloff, Edna Busse, Martin Rubinstein, Tamara Tchinarova and Dorothy Stevenson. Some full company shots are included.
This small collection of programs covers seasons by the First Australian Ballet from a production of Scheherazade and Divertissements in 1934 to the company's Silver Jubilee season of Giselle and Walpurgis Night in 1954.