Swan Lake

Alicia Alonso as Odette in a production of Swan Lake in 1946 courtesy of Wikipedia

Swan Lake was Peter Tchaikovsky’s first ballet score. Up until this point ballet scores were merely there to service the dancing. However this score by Tchaikovsky changed all that. Even though it was his first ballet. It was not only danceable but it was inspirational to listen to.

We are unsure of the story’s origin. Some believe the story of Swan Lake comes from Russian Folktales while others believe it comes from a German tale. It is a story about Prince Siegfried who meets a beautiful swan named Odette. She tells him that she is under an evil sorcerer’s spell but his love could set her free. Then he meets Odile, the sorcerer’s daughter who disguises herself as Odette. The Prince marries Odile not knowing who she really is. When the Prince finds out his mistake he is devastated. The story has two different endings. Either the prince and Odette dive into the lake into the after world together or the Prince fights the evil sorcerer and wins.

The score was first produced in 1877 and choreographed by Julius Reisinger for Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet. This first attempt was not received well. Some believe that it was just ahead of its time with a more elaborate score. It wasn’t until in 1895 Marius Petipa staged a production for St. Petersburg that is achieved its fame. He was assisted by Lev Ivanov and it was a tribute to Tchaikovsky because he had just past away the year before. His leading ballerina was again Pierina Legnani who danced Cinderella in his production in 1893. She again performed her famous 32 fouettés in the pas de deux from the ballroom scene. Today when most people refer to the original choreography they are usually talking about Petipa’s version.

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