Swan Lake, Ballet by P. I. Tchaikovsky
Such is the fame of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake, that the mere mention of its title conjures up the most wonderful images in our mind’s eye. But audiences today may be surprised to learn that Swan Lake was not an immediate success.
Written originally for the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and performed there for the first time on 4 March 1877, the premiere was deemed a critical failure, with Julius Reisinger’s choreography not quite managing to capture the subtleties of Tchaikovsky’s music. Although Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s revival for the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on 27 January 1895 fared better, it was still only decades later that Swan Lake established itself in the repertoire.
Nowadays, it seems, we cannot help but be mesmerised by the story. The moment has come for Prince Siegfried to choose a bride. While on a hunting party, he chances upon a flock of swans, only to discover that they are really a group of maidens bewitched by the sorcerer Von Rothbart. Siegfried is smitten by their queen, Odette. If he pledges his undying love for her, the spell will be broken. Von Rothbart, however, has other plans. By substituting his own daughter, Odile, for Odette, he tricks Siegfried into declaring his feelings for the wrong woman.
At this point, the different narratives for the ballet fracture. Throughout its history, companies have searched for an ending that will produce the definitive Swan Lake. Sometimes happy, at others, almost unbearably sad, the final outcome depends on the actions that its characters decide upon to rid themselves of Von Rothbart’s evil.
Also thanks to its famous open-endedness, Swan Lake has remained an exciting and highly sought after ballet work. Powered by Tchaikovsky’s dramatic and dynamic score, each production almost assumes a life of its own and arrives at a new resolution.
Guests of Teatro Costanzi, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, will experience yet another revival of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet and hang on the edge of their seat until the final chord rings out and the curtain falls.