Swan Lake

The Essence

Swan Lake is the story about Prince Siegfried who wants to break the curse of an evil sorcerer sot that the beautiful queen of swans is turned back to Princess Odette. However, he is unable to distinguish between true love and sexual seduction.


Jose Martinez with Tokyo Ballet


Bolshoi Ballet - Ludmila Semenyaka

The Plot

Some time ago, Princess Odette was turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse.

The mother of Prince Sigfried declares on his 21th carefree birthday celebration that he shall select a bride at the royal ball. Prince Sigfried is upset. When a flock of swans fly past, he goes hunting. At the swan lake, Sigfried witnesses the transformation of the swan queen into a beautiful woman, Odette. Hesitating she explains to him that the spell can only be broken if one who has never loved before will love her forever. The sorcerer interrupts them and lets the swans dance.

During the royal ball the next evening, the sorcerer appears in disguise with his daughter Odile whom he changed so that she looks identical with Odette. Sigfried who falls for the trick, falls in love with Odile. When he sees a vision of Odette, he notices his mistake and hurries in grief to the lake. Sigfried reaffirms his love to Odette but the sorcerer insists that he marry Odile. Odette and Sigfried leap into the lake which breaks the sorcerer's power and he dies too. The swans watch as the lovers ascent into the Heavens united forever in love.

The Composition

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian, 1840-1893) completed the composition of the ballet blanc Swan Lake in 1876. The libretto was most probably written by Wladimir Petrowitsch Begitschew. Choreographically, most ballet companies base their staging today on the ballet production of 1895 by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Some productions include a prologue that shows the actual transformation of Princess Odette into a swan. However, the biggest difference in production is the ending that varies from romance to tragedy.

The most difficult role is the swan queen who needs to dance the white Odette with all her natural grace, innocence and true love. In the next scene, she needs to dance the black Odile with all her sophisticated seduction and hypocritical admiration for Siegfried. The Swan Lake is one of the two most performed ballets worldwide.

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