Music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Libretto by Vladimir Begichev and Vasily Geltzer
Choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov (1895) revised by Konstantin Sergeyev (1950)
Set design by Simon Virsaladze
Costume design by Galina Solovieva
Lighting design by Sergei Lukin
Scene 1: The Park of a Castle
Prince Siegfried and his friends are celebrating his coming of age at a private party. The guests drink to his health and the jester entertains them with his antics. The Prince is warned that his mother, the Princess Regent, is approaching.
She is displeased with her son’s behaviour and she presents him with a crossbow. After the Princess has gone, the partying begins anew.
Twilight falls. The guests depart and the Prince is left alone in the park. High above, Siegfried catches sight of a flock of white swans and the vision stirs the hunter’s urge in him.
Seizing his bow, the Prince makes his way off into the heart of the forest.
Scene 2: A Lake in the Forest in the Middle of the Night
White swans are swimming near the shore; they are beautiful young maidens who have been transformed by the evil magician von Rothbart. Only at night can they assume human form and the only power on earth which can break this evil spell is devoted love.
Siegfried appears. He sees one of the white birds come to shore and draws his bow to shoot it. The bird suddenly turns into a beautiful woman – it is Odette, Queen of the swan-maidens. Odette’s beauty enthrals the Prince and he tries to capture her. She, however, is afraid of the evil magician and, as she avoids Siegfried, she disappears in the midst of the swan-maidens. Siegfried runs after Odette and vows eternal love and fidelity to her. Odette’s heart responds in the same way to Siegfried’s passionate love.
Dawn breaks. Odette bids Siegfried a tender farewell and the white swans glide slowly away across the lake.
Scene 3: A Ball at the Castle
Siegfried must choose a bride from among the well-bred maidens who have been invited, but he remains indifferent to them all because he has given his heart to Odette. Only at his mother’s insistence does he dance with any of the prospective brides.
He must, however, choose one of them, and as a token of his love he must give his chosen bride a bouquet. As he faces this dilemma, however, a fanfare of trumpets heralds the arrival of new guests – the magician von Rothbart and Odile, his daughter. The Prince is struck by her resemblance to Odette.
Von Rothbart wants the Prince to fall in love with Odile so that he will break his vow of eternal love and fidelity; Odette will then remain in the sorcerer’s power forever. It is for this reason that he has given his own daughter Odette’s form and features. Odile seduces Siegfried, who is fascinated by her charm. He announces to his mother that the beautiful Odile is his choice. The wicked magician is jubilant.
Suddenly Siegfried sees a vision of the true swan-maiden outside the castle window and realises that he has been deceived into breaking his vow. In despair, he rushes to the lake to find his beloved Odette.
Scene 4: The Lakeside, at Night
The swan-maidens stand dejected and sad. Odette has told them what has happened.
Siegfried rushes in. He begs Odette to forgive him and he professes his undying love for her, but the enraged sorcerer summons the black swans and commands them to separate Odette and Siegfried. Siegfried grapples with the sorcerer. Fearless in the encounter, he breaks von Rothbart’s wing. The sorcerer collapses, his power gone, and he dies.
Love has broken the evil spell. The sun rises and shines radiantly on the Prince and Odette, and on the maidens whom Siegfried has rescued.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was commissioned to create a fairy tale ballet A Lake of Swans in 1875. By that time, the 35-year old composer had been rather well-known: he had composed three symphonies and several operas, however he had not tried his hand at the genre of ballet yet. This was not surprising: at that time, the leading place in the ballet world was assigned to primas and ballet masters, while music played a merely supplementary role in the performance, serving as a background accompaniment for dancing. For this reason, composers regarded this genre as “low” and “second-rate”, and prominent authors rarely took on the task of composing such music.
Being a great admirer of the ballet art, Pyotr Ilyich did not support his colleagues’ snobbery and embarked on his commission with great enthusiasm. He most actively participated in the creation of the libretto of Swan Lake (though it is still uncertain who actually wrote the the original text for the ballet). He seriously explored the specifics of the ballet dance. Tchaikovsky’s friends were surprised to see how scrupulously he went into all nuances of this or that “pas”, trying to understand what music would suit the dancers best.
In 1877 Swan Lake saw the light on stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Alas, in this production everything was wrong: Reisinger’s choreography was described by critics as “gymnastics exercises”; due to a silly argument, the leading role was performed not by talented prima ballerina Sobeshyanskaya, but by her substitute - Karpakova; and the orchestra under little-experienced conductor Ryabov failed to cope with the “Swan” script. The ballet was not successful. All that Tchaikovsky could do was to hope that his music for the ballet would be appreciated some day in future.
Not long before the composer’s death, the legendary Marius Petipa and his gifted disciple and follower Lev Ivanov decided to stage a new production of Swan Lake in St Petersburg. The ballet masters considerably reworked the libretto, changed the order of numbers, removed the pathetic wings from the dancers’ costumes, creating the stage image deserving Tchaikovsky’s music. Their 1895 production at the Mariinsky Theatre became the classical basis for all subsequent interpretations. With every new generation of choreographers, Ivanov-Petipa’s Swan Lake is re-thought and enriched with new nuances, being an example of strikingly long life onstage. The Primorsky Stage audience will have a chance to see one of the iconic Konstantin Sergeyev’s versions of their favourite ballet with the legendary sets designed by Simon Virsaladze.
World premiere: 20 February 1877, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
Premiere of Konstantin Sergeyev’s version: 8 March 1950, Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Leningrad
Premiere at the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre: 9 August 2016, Vladivostok
Running time: 3 hours 10 minutes
The performance has two intervals
The highlighting of performances by age represents recommendations.
This highlighting is being used in accordance with Federal Law N436-FZ dated 29 December 2010 (edition dated 1 May 2019) "On the protection of children from information that may be harmful to their health"