The story of the glorious, beautiful ballet Swan Lake, by Peter Tchaikovsky. Russian Ballet at its best.

Contents.

The origin of Swan Lake.

Swan Lake. An outline of the story.

Lessons to be learned from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.

Two of the Best Ballet Dancers Ever.

Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. The final scene.

The composer and his creations.

Tcaikovsky composed the beautiful music for Swan Lake.
Tcaikovsky composed the beautiful music for Swan Lake.
Dancing on the enchanted lake.
Dancing on the enchanted lake.
Could this be Odette?
Could this be Odette?

The origin of Swan Lake.

When people think of Ballet one name always springs to mind, Swan Lake. This most famous example of Russian Ballet was first performed in 1875 at The Russian Imperial Theatre in Moscow. The Music was composed by Peter Tchaikovsky. Like that other great ballet by the Russian master, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake wasn’t an immediate success. The dancers thought that the music was too complicated, and difficult to dance to. The choreography by the German Master, Julius Reisinger, was uninspiring, and not very original. It was only after the death of the composer that the ballet became popular. The revisions by the famous choreographers Petipa and Ivanov made Swan Lake into the splendid production that we get to see today.

Tchaikovsky, himself, had quite a strong influence on the storyline of his ballets. He considered the Queen of the Swans, Odette, to be the epitome of the ideality of womanhood. Not that poor Peter would have had any real idea of what actual women were like. His tastes went in a different direction. Still he had been very badly affected when his mother died from cholera, when he was very young, so he may have been attracted to the idea of a woman as a tragic sacrificial victim.

The story of Swan Lake certainly is very sad. I shall give you an outline of the plot, and you can judge that for yourselves. Perhaps you might then want to go see the ballet, or at least listen to some of the absolutely gorgeous music.


Two of the Best Ballet Dancers Ever.

Swan Lake. An outline of the story.

The hero of our story is Prince Siegfried, and the story commences at his twenty first birthday party. All the townsfolk and assorted guests are at the palace to help him celebrate. The girls are falling at his feet. His mother gives him a present of a crossbow, and reminds him, that now he is of age, his marriage must be soon arranged. All our prince wants to do is to get away for a while. So, gathering up his best friends, he sets out for the woods to have a hunt, and to clear his head.

In a clearing they come across a lake with a large group of swans swimming on it. One of the swans is wearing a golden crown. Siegfried is enchanted by the beauty of the glorious birds. He asks his friends to leave so he can enjoy the lovely spectacle on his own. When dusk falls the bird with the crown turns into a beautiful queen called Odette. She tells the prince that she has been enchanted by an evil wizard called Von Rothbart, who also happens to be Siegfried’s counsellor. All the other swans are girls that are under a spell also. Swan Lake is made from the tears of their parents, who have been weeping for their bewitched daughters. The only way that the spell can be broken is if a man, pure in heart, proclaims his love for her. The prince is on the point of making the requisite declaration of devotion, when he is interrupted by the evil wizard, Von Rothbart. He snatches Odette from the prince's arms and then orders the swans to dance upon the lake, so that poor Siegfried can’t reach them. The prince is left wandering by the lake all alone.

The next day there is a formal presentation of young women, to the prince at the palace. Prince Siegfried has no real interest in any of them. His heart is lost to the beautiful swan queen. Von Rothbart turns up with his daughter Odile, who he has magicked so that she looks like Odette. The prince dances with her, and then proclaims his eternal love. In all too typical fashion, of course, Odette is peeping in the window at this point. She flees in desolation when she sees Siegfried with the imposter. But the prince sees her at the window. Immediately he realises he has been duped.

Back at the Swan Lake Odette and the other swan maidens are consoling each other. Prince Siegfried finds them. He explains about the imposter, and declares his love. Odette forgives him.

But the evil Von Rothbart and his daughter turn up at the critical moment. They are out of their human disguise, and look like a pair of demented birds. The evil wizard insists that Siegfried must keep his word, and marry his daughter. The prince refuses, and there is a fight. Siegfried declares that he would rather die than desert his great love. The two lovers jump into the lake to their deaths. Straightaway the spell is broken. The swans turn back into rather angry women. They turn on Von Rothbart and Odile, and drown them in the lake. The ballet ends with a vision of Siegfried and Odette happy together in the next world.



Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. The final scene.

Lessons to be learned from Tchaikovsky's Swan lake.

This sad story of star-crossed lovers is one of the most memorable in the history of theatre. It is comparable with Romeo and Juliet in its portrayal of the vicissitudes that are endured when love is opposed. We can, however, take comfort in the notion that great love can endure, even after death. The fate of Von Rothbart and Odile also tells us that evil will only triumph so far. In our age that is something we really need to remember.

The music of Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky, and the choreography by Petipa and Ivanov, are among the premier expressions of artistic beauty ever produced. I am including a couple of small samples with this article. Enjoy.


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