Libretto by Nazym Hikmet and Yuri Grigorovich.
Choreographer: Yuri Grigorovich
Designer: Simon Virsaladze
The royal apartments of Queen Mekhmene Banu are plunged in mourning — her young sister, Shireen, is dying. The Vizier and the courtiers are full of anxiety. Mekhmene Banu is in despair. A Stranger, who appears out of the blue, says he will cure the Princess but, in return, Mekhmene Banu must sacrifice her beauty. In order to save the life of her sister whom she loves deeply, Mekhmene Banu accepts the Stranger’s cruel terms. Shireen is brought back to life.
In the palace garden, the young court painter, Ferkhad, suddenly comes across Queen Mekhmene Banu and Princess Shireen who are taking a walk, surrounded by courtiers and the palace guard. The two sisters exchange gazes with Ferkhad and love for the young painter is born in their hearts. The procession moves off. Ferkhad is entranced by the beauty of the young Shireen. In the hope of seeing Ferkhad, Shireen secretly returns to the garden The two young people are greatly attracted to each other.
Mekhmene Banu is overcome by passion for Ferkhad. Nothing can distract her thoughts from the handsome youth. She realizes in despair that now she has lost her beauty, she will be unable to win his love.
The young Shireen dreams of happiness with her loved one: the thought that they may soon meet gives her great joy and also fills her with anxiety. Ferkhad makes his way into Shireen’s chamber and the lovers elope from the palace. Torn by jealousy, Mekhmene Banu orders that the lovers be seized. The fugitives are caught. The lovers’ pleas that they be granted their happiness are in vain. Mekhmene Banu sets Ferkhad an impossible task: in order to win Shireen, he must first bore a hole through the iron mountain which blocks the way to a water source. For the sake of his love, Ferkhad is willing to attempt the impossible. He bids farewell to Shireen.
The populace are tormented by thirst. As each day passes there is less and less water. And without water there can be no life. In order to attain water the mountain has to be destroyed.
Ferkhad, who is in the mountains, dreams that he has gained access to the water and before him he sees his beloved Shireen.
Mekhmene Banu is tormented by her passion and love for Ferkhad. She dreams she is beautiful again and that Ferkhad loves her. Shireen breaks into Mekhmene Banu’s reveries. She implores her sister to recall Ferkhad.
A great hope has brought the populace to the mountains. If Ferkhad manages to accomplish the impossible, their lives will be saved. Queen Mekhmene Banu and Shireen appear surrounded by their suite. Overcome by happiness at their meeting, the lovers throw themselves into each other’s arms. The Queen is prepared to give Ferkhad the hand of Shireen, but the former feels that he cannot go back on his duty. Mekhmene Banu and Shireen are full of respect for the great altruism of Ferkhad who is ready to sacrifice his personal happiness for the sake of his people.