(Russian: Лебединое Озеро, Lebedinoye Ozero
) is a ballet, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
, composed 1875-1876. The scenario, initially in four acts, by Vladimir Begichev and Vasiliy Geltser was fashioned from Russian folk tales as well as an ancient German legend, which tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse. The choreographer of the original production was Julius Reisinger. The ballet received its premiere on February 27, 1877, at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as Le lac des cygnes
("The Lake of the Swans"), French being the language of the Imperial Russian court. Although it is presented in many different versions, most ballet companies base their stagings both choreographically and musically on the 1895 revival of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, first staged for the Imperial Ballet on January 15, 1895, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. For this revival, Tchaikovsky's score was revised by the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre's chief conductor and composer Riccardo Drigo.
Many critics have disputed the original source of the Swan Lake
story. The Russian ballet patriarch Fyodor Lopukhov has called Swan Lake
a "national ballet" due to the swans which are common in Russian romantic lyrics, while many of the movements of the corps de ballet
originated from Slavonic ring-dances. According to Lopukhov, "both the plot of Swan Lake (despite the fact that it is based on German source), the image of the Swan, and the very idea of a faithful love are essentially Russian". Though the scenario is (as in the case of The Nutcracker
) tenuously based on a story by a German author, in this case Johann Karl August Musäus' Der geraubte Schleier
("The Stolen Veil"), this provides only the general outline of the plot; the Russian folktale "The White Duck
" also bears some resemblance to the story of the ballet and might have been another possible source. The contemporaries of Tchaikovsky recalled the composer taking great interest in the life story of Ludwig II
, the Bavarian King and Count Palatine of the Rhine, who was constantly associated with the symbol of the Swan, and whom "whether consciously or not"” Tchaikovsky chose as the prototype of the dream-haunted Prince Siegfried.
Works that are based on or revolve around Swan Lake include:
In Russian media Swan Lake
is somewhat of a trope in its own right. If there is any scene involving ballet or ballet will be shown on TV it will always be Swan Lake
. Always. Specifically "the dance of the little swans" scene.
Works that reference or include scenes from Swan Lake are:
- About Sidorov Vova
- Despicable Me (the girls rehearse an excerpt)
- Gentlemen of Fortune, Sad Sack reminiscences how he went to the ballet before he became criminal
- Kidnapping Caucasian Style
- Nu, Pogodi!
- The second game in the Dark Parables PC game series presents Odette (only identified as the Swan Lake Princess) as a Posthumous Character.
- From the same game developers, Macabre Mysteries: Curse of the Nightingale includes a Back Story in which two women play the "Swan Sisters" in a ballet which is clearly inspired by, if not a revamping of, Swan Lake. The one who plays the white swan is good; the one who plays the black swan is evil.
- When Rudolf Nureyev appeared on The Muppet Show, they had him do Swine Lake.
- In Billy Elliot the theme appears several times throughout the film and, in the final scene, the titular character plays a signet in the ballet.
- Loom, a 1990 PC adventure game, used Swan Lake for the entire sound track.
- Kaleido Star used Swan Lake as the basis for a circus show in the second season.
Also notable for having additional meaning for Russians because during the 1991 crisis
, all normal television programs were shut down and all channels showed Swan Lake
Swan Lake has examples of:
- Acting for Two: Odette and Odile are traditionally played by the same ballerina as they have to resemble each other. Some productions cast two women in the roles, which leaves room for Odile to have a part in the finale.
- Alleged Lookalikes: Disguised as the white swan...despite being dressed in black.
- Animal Stereotypes
- Betty and Veronica: Odette and Odile are this for Siegfried.
- Bittersweet Ending: When Siegfried accidentally confesses his love to Odile, he seals Odette's fate: her spell is now unbreakable. Odette, doomed to swan form perpetually, leaps into the lake and drowns herself. Unwilling to live without her, Siegfried follows suit and the two die together. Sometimes, the two are shown rising to heaven in an apotheosis. In some versions of the ballet, this is changed to a happy ending, where Odette lives and she and the other swans are freed from their captivity, and sometimes this includes Odile being redeemed as well. See Disneyfication, below.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Odette wears white; Odile wears black.
- Daddy's Little Villain: Some interpretations of Odile, especially when the two are played by different women.
- Damsel in Distress: Odette and all the other swan maidens.
- Disneyfication: Depending on the staging, the Bittersweet Ending may be changed to Happily Ever After. The same change was made in the animated feature The Swan Princess, a direct example applied to the ballet's plot.
- Downer Ending: There are a few alternative endings including, Siegfried's accidental betrayal causes Odette to turn into a swan permanently and Siegfried is left alone to mourn her and Siegfried attempts to fight Von Rothbart with the result that they both fall into the lake and drown, leaving Odette both widowed and cursed forever.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: In versions where the prologue is used, Siegfried dreams of Odette and her transformation before meeting her. In one variation, this turns out to also be foreshadowing a Dying Dream that he has in the finale.
- Evil Counterpart/Evil Twin: Odile.
- Evil Sorcerer: Von Rothbart.
- Gender Flip: The Matthew Bourne version features male swans.
- Heel Face Turn: Odile in some versions.
- Involuntary Shape Shifting: Odette and the other swan maidens.
- Karmic Death
- Knight in Shining Armor: Siegfried.
- Light is Good/Dark Is Evil: Played straight with Odette and Odile, who wear white and black tutus respectively.
- Love at First Sight
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Odile
- Master of Illusion: Von Rothbart.
- Mistaken Declaration of Love: Von Rothbart tricks Siegfried into declaring his love to his daughter Odile, whom he has disguised as Odette, and so dooms the lovers.
- Moral Dissonance: How can Siegfried be blamed for breaking his word when Rothbart deceived him?
- Multiple Endings: Quite a few endings have been performed, most of them bittersweet.
- The original ballet has the happiest ending. Siegfried struggles with Von Rothbart and tears off one of his wings, thereby destroying his powers. Siegfried has broken the spell of the swan maidens and marries Odette.
- In another, Siegfried's mistaken pledge of fidelity to Odile consigns Odette to remain a swan forever. After realizing that her last moment of humanity is at hand, Odette commits suicide by throwing herself into the lake. The Prince does so as well. This act of sacrifice and love breaks Von Rothbart's power, and he is destroyed.
- In yet another, the Prince's declaration that he wishes to marry Odile constitutes a betrayal that condemns Odette to remain a swan forever. Odette is called away into swan form, and Siegfried is left alone in grief as the curtain falls.
- One has a Hope Spot. Odette forgives Siegfried for his betrayal and the promise of reconciliation shines momentarily...before Rothbart summons forth a violent storm. Rothbart and Siegfried struggle. When the storm subsides, Odette is left alone to mourn the dead Siegfried.
- Another is a straight up The Bad Guy Wins. Rothbart fights with Siegfried, who is overcome and dies, leaving Rothbart to take Odette triumphantly up to the heavens.
- Still another has the Prince drag Rothbart into the lake, and both drown. Odette is left as a swan.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Prince Siegfried is said to be based on King Ludwig II, the nineteenth century Bavarian monarch often referred to as "the Swan King."
- The Power of Love
- Redemption Equals Death: In some productions, Siegfried dies with Odette to atone for his betrayal.
- Shapeshifting Lover
- Star-Crossed Lovers
- Swans A Swimming: Naturally.
- The Vamp: Odile, though some versions make her more sympathetic and thus a Broken Bird Femme Fatale instead.
- Woman in White: Odette, of course.