THE FOUNTAIN OF BAKHCHISARAI
A park in front of the old Polish castle of Prince Adam. Music is coming from the illuminated windows: a ball is being held in the castle. An affectionate meeting between Maria, the Prince’s daughter, and her lover Vaslav. The guards bring a captured Tatar warrior – The Tatars are close. Nevertheless, the celebration continues. The park is filling up with guests to the sound of polonaise. Maria and Vaslav are among them. Suddenly, the captain of the guard reports the troubling news – The Tatars are approaching the castle. The women scatter, the men get ready to defend the castle. A battle ensues. Wrapped in a veil, Maria and Vaslav try to escape. Their path is blocked by Khan Ghirei. He strikes Vaslav down with his dagger and unveils Maria. Struck by her beauty, he carries her away.
Ghirei’s harem. Among the Khan’s wives is his favourite and most beautiful wife, Zarema – “the star of love, the adornment of the harem”. Ghirei returns from the battle. Maria is carried in on a stretcher. Zarema joyfully welcomes Ghirei, but he is preoccupied with thoughts of Maria. The wives try to cheer up their ruler, but in vain. Zarema tries to regain Ghirei’s love, but he pushes her aside. Zarema collapses.
The fountain courtyard of the Khan’s Palace. Surrounded by his retinue, Ghirei has fallen into a stupor. The warriors return from battles, bringing rich gifts to their ruler: banners and jewels, and beautiful captive girls. But nothing can bring Ghirei back or catch his attention, even Zarema’s execution; she was thrown off a high wall and into the sea by the guards. The Khan sends everyone away. He orders the architect to uncover the “Fountain of Tears” – a monument, built in the memory of Maria. Ghirei is in deep thought. He has a vision of Maria. The night changes to day. The beautiful vision fades away… The lonely Khan Ghirei continues to sit near the fountain.