Swan Lake, Ballet by P. I. Tchaikovsky
Commissioned by the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow to the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake is the first of three ballets written by the great composer, as well as being one of the best known and most widely performed in the world.
The Teatro Costanzi (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma) presents this ballet in four acts, which is a masterpiece in the history of dance.
With a choreography by Julius Reisinger, it was premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre on 4 March 1877 without making a great impact. However, in January 1895, two years after Tchaikovsky’s death, it was performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, with a new choreography by Marius Petipa (first and third acts) and by Lev Ivanov (second and fourth acts). On this occasion it was received to great acclaim, ensuring that this ballet would become an enduring classic.
When Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write Swan Lake by the Moscow Opera, he had never written music for ballet before. For this composition, which elevated ballet music to a musical genre of its own, Tchaikovsky took inspiration from an ancient Germanic legend (which influenced the new work’s title) and incorporated fragments of music from his operas Undina and The Voyevoda. The power of Tchaikovsky’s music, in combination with the technical and expressive perfection of the sublime choreography, and together with one of the most famous “pas de deux” in the ballet repertoire – which typifies the technique, style and expressive form of classical ballet – make this a truly unique work.
In Swan Lake, one can find the ideals of Romanticism: fantasy, mystery, spells, monsters, transformations, love conquering evil, etc. It presents an unforgettable fairy tale, which narrates the compelling love story of Siegfried and the young Queen Odette. The latter – and her whole court – have been turned into swans by the sorcerer Rothbart, and they only recover their human form at night. But the spell will be broken when a man promises Odette eternal love.