It’s 1865, and the young Rimsky-Korsakov (Jean-Pierre Aumont) is a sailor on a two-year world tour with the Russian Navy. When the ship docks in Tangiers, his search for a piano on which to play his latest work brings him into the fold of a family of down-at-heel Spanish aristocrats.
The daughter Cara (Yvonne de Carlo) works secretly as a veiled dancer – with the stage name Scheherazade – in order to support her mother Madame de Talavera (Eve Arden)’s spendthrift habits. Rimsky-Korsakov is captivated by Cara, and her tales from the mysterious East begin to infiltrate his compositions.
As the week’s furlough flies by, young Nikolai’s musical and amorous aspirations come under threat from Brian Donlevy’s severe Captain Vladimir Gregorovitch and dashing shipmate Prince Mischetsky (Phillip Reed) – but a harmonious ending is on the horizon.
Written and directed by Walter Reisch (Ninotchka, Gaslight, Niagara), the film also stars Charles Kullmann, a leading tenor with the Metropolitan Opera, who is smuggled aboard as the ship’s doctor to perform many of Rimsky-Korsakov’s enduring melodies.