Libretto: Nikolai Volkov based on the poem by Alexander Pushkin
World premiere: 28 September 1934, Kirov Theatre, Leningrad
An old park in front of a Polish magnate castle. There is a ball going on - a birthday party of Marie, his beautiful daughter. Marie and her fiancee Vatslav are tenderly in love.
A tartar spy is creeping along the alley, but nobody notices the disaster.
The doors of the castle are wide open. Sounds of polonaise are heard; the guests are coming down to the park. Before others there are master with his beautiful daughter.
The guests are dancing national dances when the wounded guard’s chief suddenly interrupts the celebration. He brought the troubled news about tartars’ raid. Prince Adam calls the men up to weapons. The ladies are hiding in the castle. The Poles bare their sabers and get ready to repulse the enemies’ attack.
The castle is on fire. The mortal combat is over, the castle defenders are killed. Miraculously alive Marie and Vatslav run out of the castle, but the raids’ chief - the khan of Crimea Ghirey bars their way. Trying to protect Marie Vatslav dashes at his enemy, but falls immediately struck down with the dagger. The khan tears the scarf off Marie, and freezes struck by her beauty.
The harem of khan Ghirey in Bakhchisaray. Among the slaves there is khans’ favourite wife Zarema. The sounds of martial music are heard - Ghirey’s troops are coming back from the campaign. The harem is impatient waiting for their master. The tartars are carrying rich plunder. Captured Marie is carefully held.
Ghirey enters the harem. Zarema is the first to welcome him trying to entertain her master, but in vane - Ghirey keeps cool and indifferent. The servant-girl brings the new captive. Zarema notices that khan is very pleased, he does nothing but watches Marie. Zarema understands that she has lost her master love. In vane does she try to make his sympathies come back. Pushing her away Ghirey leaves the room. In despair she faints.
Marie’s bedroom. Under guard of an old servant the beautiful captive is languishing. The sounds of lute remind her about her lost freedom, her homeland. The images of serene past are passing one by one.
Ghirey comes and breaks up the happy memories. Humbly he asks Marie to accept his love, to come in possession of all his treasures, as she possesses his heart. Marie keeps aloof. The love of Ghirey who killed her beloved, relatives and friends only arouses horror and disgust. Unshakable pride of the unprotected young lady makes the khan retreat. He leaves.
In the night, totally unnoticed Zarema sneaks into Marie’s bedroom. Blind with the jealousy she demands Marie to give her love and sympathies of Ghirey back. Zarema is full of unbridled passion, her speeches startle the girl. In vane does she try to calm down her “rival”. Zarema notices Ghirey’s tyubeteika, the suspicions come surging and restart the fire of jealousy. Mad burst of anger makes her dash at Marie with the dagger. When Ghirey comes in running, it is already late. Marie is dead.
The yard of the Bakhcisaray palace. Immersed in uneasy thaughts Ghirey seats surrounded by his devoted warriors. Nothing brings him pleasure, nor rich plunder of the last campaign nor beautiful captives. Execution of Zarema, who was throuwn to precipice according to khans order, doesn’t bring him any relief from his distress. Ghirey’s favorite commander tries to distract his master from his soul sufferings with the martial dance. Ghirey shows no interest to it.
Ghirey is seating by the “fontain of tears” wich was built to commemorate Matie. The images of the past appear and disapear reviving the aspect of the beautiful girl.