Music- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Libretto by Vladimir Begichev and Vasily Geltser
Choreography- Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Adapted by Valentin Grishchenko
Costumes designer- Yulia Zhuravlyova
Stage designer- Maksim Ushakov
Light designer- Maksim Kuroshou
Ballet in two acts.
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes (1 intermission).
Premiere: February 20, 1877, Bolshoi Theater, Moscow.
Swan Lake is perhaps the most famous and popular ballet performance in history. It may be hard to believe that its premiere in the Bolshoi Theater, back in 1877, was quite modest.
In the 19th century, established musicians looked down on ballet. They considered it to be second-rate art, no different than vaudevilles or melodramas. For this reason, when the Director of Imperial Theaters commissioned Tchaikovsky to compose a score for the Swan Lake ballet in 1875, it was a rather unusual proposal. As a ballet lover, the composer accepted – though he was primarily motivated by the considerable payment offered. The choreographer of the original version of Swan Lake was Julius Reisinger, ballet master of the Bolshoi Theater. Yet the performance was a failure and received a negative reception.
The adaptation of the ballet that was to gain popularity was staged more than 20 years later. This time, the talented choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov tackled Tchaikovsky’s score. Unfortunately, Tchaikovsky died before the ultimate triumph of Swan Lake. The white act of the ballet was first performed at the commemoration night dedicated to the great composer in 1894. It was Lev Ivanov who choreographed the famous swan scenes. With his remarkable sense of music, Ivanov created an immortal ballet masterpiece. A year later, Swan Lake, completed with the choreography of Marius Petipa, was staged at the Mariinsky Theater on January 15, 1895.
Since that time, Swan Lake has been an indispensable part of the repertoires of theaters across the world. The numerous variations and versions that exist today are sometimes radical and bold, but always eye-catching and memorable. The double part of Odette and Odile is the ultimate dream role of every ballerina. Acclaimed ballet virtuoso Pierina Legnani was the first dancer to fill that role in Petipa and Ivanov’s production. She was the artist who introduced an astonished audience to the never-before-seen stunt of 32 fouettés. In the 20th century, the Moscow stage saw other grand Odiles and Odettes, including Galina Ulanova, Marina Semyonova, Maya Plisetskaya, Nataliya Bessmertnova, and Lyudmila Semenyaka. Today, Swan Lake remains a proofing ground that allows talented artists to unleash their skills and creativity.
Act 1/Scene 1
It is Prince Siegfried’s twenty—first birthday. Young people gathered to celebrate this occasion.
During the celebration the Queen Mother reminds the Prince of his responsibilities and that it is time for him to get married. He must choose one of the ladies as his bride at the ball to be held for that purpose tomorrow evening. The Prince melancholically reminisces about his passing carefree youth. He has no wish to get married. As evening falls, the court jester, trying to cheer Siegfried up, points at a flying flock of swans and suggests they go hunting. Having decided that there is still time for entertainment, Siegfried goes to the lake.
Act 1/Scene 2
A group of hunters follows the swans through the thicket. Suddenly, a magnificent swan catches the prince’s attention. It is Odette, the Queen of Swans. She and her maidens have been doomed by the malevolent magician Von Rothbart to be swans by day and are allowed their humanity only from midnight to dawn. Only the true love of a young man can break this spell. Entranced by her beauty and filled with love for Odette, Siegfried vows to break the spell of von Rothbart. Dawn approaches and the lovers say goodbye. Odette returns to the lake, turning into a swan, and Von Rothbard swears to make Siegfried break his vow.
Act 2/Scene 1
The entire court is assembled for Siegfried’s ball. The invited princesses and their relatives eagerly await the Prince’s decision. The Queen Mother reminds Siegfried that he must choose one of the present ladies for his wife. His mind remains with the image of beautiful Odette. Mindful of his vow of fidelity, he pays little attention to the eligible brides-to-be presented to him. Trumpets announce the arrival of new guests. Von Rothbart, dressed as a noble, enters with his daughter Odile. Siegfried is astonished by her likeness to Odette and, stunned by her unexpected appearance, asks her to dance for him. Odile has charmed the Prince so much that he asks her to become his wife. The Prince, convinced that he is with his beloved Odette, swears fidelity to her in front of everyone present. Triumphant, von Rothbart and Odile reveal their true identities.
The Prince discovers too late that he is the victim of their insidious machinations. He betrayed Odette. She will never be free of curse. Desperate, Siegfried runs to the lake to find her.
Act 2/Scene 2
The swan maidens are anxiously awaiting Odette’s return. When she comes back, she tells them in anguish of Siegfried`s betrayal. The evil magician triumphs, so now there is no salvation for the swan maidens. A storm springs up on the lake. The Prince appears. He begs Odette’s forgiveness, explaining that he took an oath deceived by Odile’s resemblance to Odette. She forgives him, but it’s too late: nothing can break the evil spell. Von Rothbart appears. He tries his best to separate the lovers. And he almost succeeds: he grabs Odette in his deadly embrace. Tormented by an owl, Odette falls exhausted to the ground. Siegfried goes into single combat with Rothbart. Love gives strength to the Prince — he almost defeats the sorcerer. Odette and Siegfried vow eternal love to each other. The power of love kills Rothbart!
He is defeated! The spell of the Evil Genius has come to an end!
Odette and Prince Siegfried are united in their Love and Happiness! The rays of the rising sun bring Life, Love and Goodness to the world.