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.