Design by F. Gaanen for the décor of act 2, Moscow 1877
Origins of the ballet
There is no evidence to prove who wrote the original libretto, or where the idea for the plot came from. Russian and German folk tales have been proposed as possible sources, including "The White Duck" and "The Stolen Veil" by Johann Karl August Musäus, but both those tales differ significantly from the ballet.
One theory is that the original choreographer, Julius Reisinger, who was a Bohemian (and therefore likely to be familiar with The Stolen Veil), created the story. Another theory is that it was written by Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres at the time, possibly with Vasily Geltser, Danseur of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre (a surviving copy of the libretto bears his name). Since the first published libretto does not correspond with Tchaikovsky's music in many places, one theory is that the first published version was written by a journalist after viewing initial rehearsals (new opera and ballet productions were always reported in the newspapers, along with their respective scenarios).
Some contemporaries of Tchaikovsky recalled the composer taking great interest in the life story of Bavarian King Ludwig II, whose life had supposedly been marked by the sign of Swan and could have been the prototype of the dreamer Prince Siegfried. However, Ludwig's death happened 10 years after the first performance of the ballet.
Begichev commissioned the score of Swan Lake from Tchaikovsky in May 1875 for 800 rubles. Tchaikovsky worked with only a basic outline from Julius Reisinger of the requirements for each dance. However, unlike the instructions for the scores of The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, no written instruction is known to have survived.
From around the time of the turn of the 19th century until the beginning of the 1890s, scores for ballets were almost always written by composers known as "specialists," who were highly skilled at scoring the light, decorative, melodious, and rhythmically clear music that was at that time in vogue for ballet. Tchaikovsky studied the music of "specialists" such as the Italian Cesare Pugni and the Austrian Ludwig Minkus, before setting to work on Swan Lake.
Tchaikovsky had a rather negative opinion of the "specialist" ballet music until he studied it in detail, being impressed by the nearly limitless variety of infectious melodies their scores contained. Tchaikovsky most admired the ballet music of such composers as Léo Delibes, Adolphe Adam, and later, Riccardo Drigo. He would later write to his protégé, the composer Sergei Taneyev, "I listened to the Delibes ballet Sylvia ... what charm, what elegance, what wealth of melody, rhythm, and harmony. I was ashamed, for if I had known of this music then, I would not have written Swan Lake." Tchaikovsky most admired Adam's 1844 score for Giselle, which used the Leitmotif technique: associating certain themes with certain characters or moods, a technique he would use in Swan Lake, and later, The Sleeping Beauty.
Tchaikovsky drew on previous compositions for his Swan Lake score. According to two of Tchaikovsky's relatives - his nephew Yuri Lvovich Davydov and his niece Anna Meck-Davydova - the composer had earlier created a little ballet called The Lake of the Swans at their home in 1871. This ballet included the famous Leitmotif, the Swan's Theme or Song of the Swans. He also made use of material from The Voyevoda, an opera he had abandoned in 1868. The Grand adage (a.k.a. the Love Duet) from the second scene of Swan Lake was fashioned from an aria from that opera, as was the Valse des fiancées from the third scene. Another number which included a theme from The Voyevoda was the Entr'acte of the fourth scene.
By April 1876 the score was complete, and rehearsals began. Soon Reisinger began setting certain numbers aside that he dubbed "undanceable." Reisinger even began choreographing dances to other composers' music, but Tchaikovsky protested and his pieces were reinstated. Although the two artists were required to collaborate, each seemed to prefer working as independently of the other as possible.
Tchaikovsky's excitement with Swan Lake is evident from the speed with which he composed: commissioned in the spring of 1875, the piece was created within one full year. His letters to Sergei Taneyev from August 1875 indicate, however, that it was not only his excitement that compelled him to create it so quickly but his wish to finish it as soon as possible, so as to allow him to start on an opera. Respectively, he created scores of the first three numbers of the ballet, then the orchestration in the fall and winter, and was still struggling with the instrumentation in the spring. By April 1876, the work was complete. Tchaikovsky's mention of a draft suggests the presence of some sort of abstract but no such draft has ever been seen. Tchaikovsky wrote various letters to friends expressing his longstanding desire to work with this type of music, and his excitement concerning his current stimulating, albeit laborious task.
The première on Friday, 4 March 1877, was given as a benefit performance for the ballerina Pelageya Karpakova (also known as Polina Karpakova), who performed the role of Odette, with première danseur Victor Gillert as Prince Siegfried. Karpakova may also have danced the part Odile, although it is believed the ballet originally called for two different dancers. It is now common practice for the same ballerina to dance both Odette and Odile.
The Russian ballerina Anna Sobeshchanskaya was originally cast as Odette, but was replaced when a governing official in Moscow complained about her, claiming she had accepted jewelry from him, only to then marry a fellow danseur and sell the pieces for cash.
The première was not well-received. Though there were a few critics who recognised the virtues of the score, most considered it to be far too complicated for ballet. It was labelled, "too noisy, too 'Wagnerian' and too symphonic." The critics also thought Reisinger's choreography was "unimaginative and altogether unmemorable." The German origins of the story were "treated with suspicion while the tale itself was regarded as 'stupid' with unpronounceable surnames for its characters." Karpakova was a secondary soloist and "not particularly convincing."
The poverty of the production, meaning the décor and costumes, the absence of outstanding performers, the Balletmaster's weakness of imagination, and, finally, the orchestra ... all of this together permitted (Tchaikovsky) with good reason to cast the blame for the failure on others.
Yet the fact remains (and is too often omitted in accounts of this initial production) that this staging survived for six years with a total of 41 performances - many more than several other ballets from the repertoire of this theatre.
On 26 April 1877, Anna Sobeshchanskaya made her début as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, and from the start she was completely dissatisfied with the ballet. Sobeshchanskaya asked Marius Petipa--Premier Maître de Ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres--to choreograph a pas de deux to replace the pas de six in the third act (for a ballerina to request a supplemental pas or variation was standard practice in 19th century ballet, and often these "custom-made" dances were the legal property of the ballerina they were composed for).
Petipa created the pas de deux to music by Ludwig Minkus, ballet composer to the St Petersburg Imperial Theatres. The piece was a standard pas de deux classique consisting of a short entrée, the grand adage, a variation for each dancer individually, and a coda.
Tchaikovsky was angered by this change, stating that whether the ballet was good or bad, he alone should be held responsible for its music. He agreed to compose a new pas de deux, but soon a problem arose: Sobeshchanskaya wanted to retain Petipa's choreography. Tchaikovsky agreed to compose a pas that would match to such a degree, the ballerina would not even be required to rehearse. Sobeshchanskaya was so pleased with Tchaikovsky's new music, she requested he compose an additional variation, which he did.
Until 1953 this pas de deux was thought to be lost, until an accidentally discovered repétiteur was found in the archives of the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre among the orchestral parts used for Alexander Gorsky's revival of Le Corsaire (Gorsky had included the piece in his version of Le Corsaire staged in 1912). In 1960 George Balanchine choreographed a pas de deux to this music for the Violette Verdy, and the Conrad Ludlow performed on the City Center of Music and Drama in New York City under the title Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, as it is still known and performed today.
Subsequent productions 1879-1894
Julius Reisinger's successor as balletmaster was Joseph Peter Hansen. Hansen made considerable efforts to salvage Swan Lake and on 13 January 1880 he presented a new production of the ballet for his own benefit performance. The part of Odette/Odile was danced by Evdokia Kalmykova, a student of the Moscow Imperial Ballet School, with Alfred Bekefi as Prince Siegfried. This production was far more well-received than the original, though by no means a great success. Hansen presented another version of Swan Lake on 28 October 1882, again with Kalmykova as Odette/Odile. For this production Hansen arranged a Grand Pas for the ballroom scene which he titled La Cosmopolitana. This was taken from the European section of the Grand Pas d'action known as The Allegory of the Continents from Marius Petipa's 1875 ballet The Bandits to the music of Ludwig Minkus. Hansen's version of Swan Lake was given only four times, the final performance being on 2 January 1883, and soon the ballet was dropped from the repertory altogether.
In all, Swan Lake was given a total of forty-one performances between its première and the final performance of 1883 - a rather lengthy run for a ballet that was so poorly received upon its premiere. Hansen would go on to become Balletmaster to the Alhambra Theatre in London and on 1 December 1884 he presented a one-act ballet titled The Swans, which was inspired by the second scene of Swan Lake. The music was composed by the Alhambra Theatre's chef d'orchestre Georges Jacoby.
The second scene of Swan Lake was then presented on 21 February in Prague by the Ballet of the National Theatre in a version mounted by the Balletmaster August Berger. The ballet was given during two concerts which were conducted by Tchaikovsky. The composer noted in his diary that he experienced "a moment of absolute happiness" when the ballet was performed. Berger's production followed the 1877 libretto, though the names of Prince Siegfried and Benno were changed to Jaroslav and Zde?ek, with the rôle of Benno danced by a female dancer en travestie. The rôle of Prince Siegfried was danced by Berger himself with the ballerina Giulietta Paltriniera-Bergrova as Odette. Berger's production was only given eight performances and was even planned for production at the Fantasia Garden in Moscow in 1893, but it never materialised.
During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Petipa and Vsevolozhsky discussed with Tchaikovsky the possibility of reviving Swan Lake. However, Tchaikovsky died on 6 November 1893, just when plans to revive Swan Lake were beginning to come to fruition. It remains uncertain whether Tchaikovsky was prepared to revise the music for this revival. Whatever the case, as a result of Tchaikovsky's death, Drigo was forced to revise the score himself, after receiving approval from Tchaikovsky's younger brother, Modest. There are major differences between Drigo's and Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake score. Today, it is Riccardo Drigo's revision of Tchaikovsky's score, and not Tchaikovsky's original score of 1877, that most ballet companies use.
Pavel Gerdt as Prince Siegfried (Mariinsky Theatre, 1895)
In February 1894, two memorial concerts planned by Vsevolozhsky were given in honor of Tchaikovsky. The production included the second act of Swan Lake, choreographed by Lev Ivanov, Second Balletmaster to the Imperial Ballet. Ivanov's choreography for the memorial concert was unanimously hailed as wonderful.
The revival of Swan Lake was planned for Pierina Legnani's benefit performance in the 1894-1895 season. The death of Tsar Alexander III on 1 November 1894 and the ensuing period of official mourning brought all ballet performances and rehearsals to a close for some time, and as a result all efforts could be concentrated on the pre-production of the full revival of Swan Lake. Ivanov and Petipa collaborated on the production, with Ivanov retaining his dances for the second act while choreographing the fourth, with Petipa staging the first and third acts.
Modest Tchaikovsky was called upon to make changes to the ballet's libretto, including the character of Odette changing from a fairy swan-maiden into a cursed mortal woman, the ballet's villain changing from Odette's stepmother to the magician von Rothbart, and the ballet's finale: instead of the lovers simply drowning at the hand of Odette's stepmother as in the original 1877 scenario, Odette commits suicide by drowning herself, with Prince Siegfried choosing to die as well, rather than live without her, and soon the lovers' spirits are reunited in an apotheosis. Aside from the revision of the libretto the ballet was changed from four acts to three--with act 2 becoming act 1, scene 2.
All was ready by the beginning of 1895 and the ballet had its première on Friday, 27 January. Pierina Legnani danced Odette/Odile, with Pavel Gerdt as Prince Siegfried, Alexei Bulgakov as Rothbart, and Alexander Oblakov as Benno. Most of the reviews in the St. Petersburg newspapers were positive.
Unlike the première of The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake did not dominate the repertory of the Mariinsky Theatre in its first season. It was given only sixteen performances between the première and the 1895-1896 season, and was not performed at all in 1897. Even more surprising, the ballet was performed only four times in 1898 and 1899. The ballet belonged solely to Legnani until she left St. Petersburg for her native Italy in 1901. After her departure, the ballet was taken over by Mathilde Kschessinskaya, who was as much celebrated in the rôle as was her Italian predecessor.
Throughout the performance history of Swan Lake, the 1895 edition has served as the version on which most stagings have been based. Nearly every balletmaster or choreographer who has re-staged Swan Lake has made modifications to the ballet's scenario, while still maintaining much of the traditional choreography for the dances, which is regarded as virtually sacrosanct. Likewise, over time the rôle of Siegfried has become more prominent, due largely to the evolution of ballet technique.
In 1940, San Francisco Ballet became the first American company to stage a complete production of Swan Lake. The enormously successful production starred Lew Christensen as Prince Siegfried, Jacqueline Martin as Odette, and Janet Reed as Odile. Willam Christensen based his choreography on the Petipa-Ivanov production, turning to San Francisco's large population of Russian émigrés, headed by Princess and Prince Vasili Alexandrovich of Russia, to help him ensure that the production succeeded in its goal of preserving Russian culture in San Francisco.
Several notable productions have diverged from the original and its 1895 revival:
Illusions Like "Swan Lake" 1976: John Neumeier Hamburg Ballet, Neumeier interpolated the story of Ludwig II of Bavaria into the Swan Lake plot, via Ludwig's fascination with swans. Much of the original score was used with additional Tchaikovsky material and the choreography combined the familiar Petipa/Ivanov material with new dances and scenes by Neumeier. The ballet finishes with Ludwig's death by drowning while confined to an asylum, set to the dramatic music for the act 3 conclusion. With the theme of the unhappy royal being forced into heterosexual marriage for reasons of state and also the cross reference to the personal lives of actual royalty, this work anticipated both Bourne's and Murphy's interpretation. Illusions Like "Swan Lake" remains in the repertoire of major German ballet companies.
Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake departed from the traditional ballet by replacing the female corps de ballet with male dancers. It has been performed on extended tours in Greece, Israel, Turkey, Australia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, and Ireland in addition to the United Kingdom, and has won over 30 international awards to date.
The 2000 American Ballet Theatre version (taped for television in 2005), rather than having the curtain down as the slow introduction is played, used this music to accompany a new prologue in which the audience is shown how Rothbart first transforms Odette into a swan. This prologue is similar to Vladimir Burmeister's production of "Swan Lake" (firstly staged in Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow, 1953) but has some differences. Rothbart in this production is played by two dancers; one appears as a handsome young man who is easily able to lure Odette in the new prologue, and the other dancer is covered in sinister "monster makeup" which reveals the magician's true self. (in the film Black Swan, Natalie Portman, as Nina, dreams this in the film's opening sequence). About half-an-hour of the complete score is omitted from this production.
Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake was first performed in 2002, and was loosely based on the breakdown of the marriage of Lady Diana to Prince Charles and his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. It combined the rôles of Rothbart and Odile into that of a Baroness, and the focus of the story is a love triangle.
In 2010, South African choreographer and ballet dancer Dada Masilo, remade Tchaikovsky's classic. Her version was a mix of classic ballet and African dance. She also made a plot twist by presenting Odile (the black swan) as a gay male swan rather than a female swan.
Swan Lake is scored for the typical late 19th-century large orchestra:
Princess Odette (the Swan Queen and the White Swan or also the Swan Princess), a beautiful Princess, who has been transformed into a white swan.
Prince Siegfried, a handsome Prince who falls in love with Odette
Baron Von Rothbart, an evil sorcerer, who has enchanted Odette
Odile (the Black Swan), Rothbart's daughter
Benno von Sommerstern, the Prince's friend
The Queen, Prince Siegfried's mother
Wolfgang, his tutor
Baron von Stein
The Baroness, his wife
Freiherr von Schwarzfels
Court gentlemen and ladies, friends of the prince, heralds, guests, pages, villagers, servants, swans, cygnets
Variations to characters
By 1895, Benno von Sommerstern had become just "Benno," and Odette "Queen of the Swans." Also Baron von Stein, his wife, and Freiherr von Schwarzfels and his wife were no longer identified on the program. The sovereign or ruling Princess is often rendered "Queen Mother."
The character of Rothbart (sometimes spelled Rotbart) has been open to many interpretations. The reason for his curse upon Odette is unknown; several versions, including two feature films, have suggested reasons, but none is typically explained by the ballet. He is rarely portrayed in human form, except in act 3. He is usually shown as an owl-like creature. In most productions, the couple's sacrifice results in his destruction. However, there are versions in which he is triumphant. Yury Grigorovich's version, which has been danced for several decades by the Bolshoi Ballet, is noted for including both endings: Rothbart was defeated in the original 1969 version, in line with Soviet-era expectations of an upbeat conclusion, but in the 2001 revision, Rothbart plays a wicked game of fate with Siegfried, which he wins at the end, causing Siegfried to lose everything. In the second American Ballet Theatre production of Swan Lake, he is portrayed by two dancers: a young, handsome one who lures Odette to her doom in the prologue, and a reptilian creature. In this version, the lovers' suicide inspires the rest of Rothbart's imprisoned swans to turn on him and overcome his spell.
Odile, Rothbart's daughter usually wears jet black (though in the 1895 production, she did not), and appears only in act 3. In most modern productions, she is portrayed as Odette's exact double (though the resemblance is because of Rothbart's magic), and therefore Siegfried cannot be blamed for believing her to be Odette. There is a suggestion that in the original production, Odette and Odile were danced by two different ballerinas. This is also the case in some avant garde productions.
Swan Lake is generally presented in either four acts, four scenes (primarily outside Russia and Eastern Europe) or three acts, four scenes (primarily in Russia and Eastern Europe). The biggest difference of productions all over the world is that the ending, originally tragic, is now sometimes altered to a happy ending.
Some productions include a prologue that shows how Odette first meets Rothbart, who turns Odette into a swan.
A magnificent park before a palace
[Scène: Allegro giusto] Prince Siegfried is celebrating his birthday with his tutor, friends and peasants [Waltz]. The revelries are interrupted by Siegfried's mother, the Queen [Scène: Allegro moderato], who is concerned about her son's carefree lifestyle. She tells him that he must choose a bride at the royal ball the following evening (some productions include the presentation of some possible candidates). Siegfried is upset that he cannot marry for love. His friend Benno and the tutor try to lift his troubled mood. As evening falls [Sujet], Benno sees a flock of swans flying overhead and suggests they go on a hunt [Finale I]. Siegfried and his friends take their crossbows and set off in pursuit of the swans.
A lakeside clearing in a forest by the ruins of a chapel. A moonlit night.
The "Valse des cygnes" from act 2 of the Ivanov/Petipa edition of Swan Lake
Siegfried has become separated from his friends. He arrives at the lakeside clearing, just as a flock of swans land [Scène. Moderato]. He aims his crossbow [Scène. Allegro moderato], but freezes when one of them transforms into a beautiful maiden, Odette [Scène. Moderato]. At first, she is terrified of Siegfried. When he promises not to harm her, she explains she and her companions are victims of a spell cast by the evil owl-like sorcerer Rothbart. By day they are turned into swans and only at night, by the side of the enchanted lake - created from the tears of Odette's mother - do they return to human form. The spell can only be broken if one who has never loved before swears to love Odette forever. Rothbart suddenly appears [Scène. Allegro vivo]. Siegfried threatens to kill him but Odette intercedes - if Rothbart dies before the spell is broken, it can never be undone.
As Rothbart disappears, the swan maidens fill the clearing [Scène: Allegro, Moderato assai quasi andante]. Siegfried breaks his crossbow, and sets about winning Odette's trust as the two fall in love. But as dawn arrives, the evil spell draws Odette and her companions back to the lake and they are turned into swans again.
An opulent hall in the palace
Guests arrive at the palace for a costume ball. Six princesses are presented to the prince [Entrance of the Guests and Waltz], as candidates for marriage. Rothbart arrives in disguise [Scène: Allegro, Allegro giusto] with his daughter, Odile, who is transformed to look like Odette. Though the princesses try to attract the prince with their dances [Pas de six], Siegfried has eyes only for Odile. [Scène: Allegro, Tempo di valse, Allegro vivo] Odette appears (usually at the castle window) and attempts to warn Siegfried, but he does not see her. He then proclaims to the court that he will marry "Odette" (Odile) before Rothbart shows him a magical vision of Odette. Grief-stricken and realizing his mistake, Siegfried hurries back to the lake.
Odette is distraught. The swan-maidens try to comfort her. Siegfried returns to the lake and makes a passionate apology. She forgives him, but his betrayal cannot be undone. Rather than remain a swan forever, Odette chooses to die. Siegfried chooses to die with her and they leap into the lake. This breaks Rothbart's spell over the swan maidens, causing him to lose his power over them and he dies. In an apotheosis, the swan maidens watch as Siegfried and Odette ascend into the Heavens together, forever united in love.
1877 libretto synopsis
Act 1: Prince Siegfried, his friends, and a group of peasants are celebrating the Prince's coming of age. Siegfried's mother arrives to inform him that she wishes for him to marry soon so that she may make sure that he does not disgrace their family line by his marriage. She has organised a ball where Siegfried is to choose his bride from among the daughters of the nobility. After the celebration, Siegfried and his friend, Benno, spot a flock of flying swans and decide to hunt them.
Act 2: Siegfried and Benno track the swans to a lake, but they vanish. A woman wearing a crown appears and meets the two men. She tells them that her name is Odette and she was one of the swans they were hunting. She tells them her story: Odette's mother, a good fairy, had married a knight, but she died and the knight remarried. Odette's stepmother was a witch who wanted to kill her, but her grandfather saved her. Odette's grandfather had cried so much over the death of Odette's mother that he created the lake with his tears. Odette and her companions live in the lake with Odette's grandfather, and can transform themselves into swans whenever they wish. Odette's stepmother still wants to kill her, and stalks her in the form of an owl, but Odette has a crown which protects her from harm. When Odette gets married, the witch will lose the power to harm her. Siegfried falls in love with Odette but Odette fears that the witch will ruin their happiness.
Act 3: Several young noblewomen dance at Siegfried's ball, but the Prince refuses to marry any of them. Baron von Rothbart and his daughter, Odile, arrive. Siegfried thinks that Odile looks like Odette, but Benno doesn't agree. Siegfried dances with Odile as he grows more and more enamored with her, and eventually agrees to marry her. At that moment, Rothbart transforms into a demon, Odile laughs, and a white swan wearing a crown appears in the window. The Prince runs out of the castle.
Act 4: In tears, Odette tells her friends that Siegfried did not keep his vow of love. Seeing that Siegfried is coming, Odette's friends leave and urge her to go with them, but Odette wants to see Siegfried one last time. A storm begins. Siegfried enters and begs Odette for forgiveness. Odette refuses and attempts to leave. Siegfried snatches the crown from her head and throws it in the lake, saying "Willing or unwilling, you will always remain with me!" The owl flies overhead, carrying away the crown. "What have you done? I am dying!" Odette says, and falls into Siegfried's arms. The lake rises from the storm and drowns Odette and Siegfried. The storm quiets, and a group of swans appears on the lake.
Many different endings exist, ranging from romantic to tragic.
In 1950, Konstantin Sergeyev staged a new Swan Lake for the Mariinsky Ballet (then the Kirov) after Petipa and Ivanov, but included some bits of Vaganova and Gorsky. Under the Soviet regime, the tragic ending was replaced with a happy one, so that in the Mariinsky and Bolshoi versions, Odette and Siegfried lived happily ever after.
In the version danced today by the Mariinsky Ballet, the ending is one of a "happily ever after" in which Siegfried fights Rothbart and tears off his wing, killing him. Odette is restored to human form and she and Siegfried are happily united. This version has often been used by Russian and Chinese ballet companies. A similar ending was used in The Swan Princess.
In the 1986 version Rudolf Nureyev choreographed for the Paris Opera Ballet, Rothbart fights with Siegfried, who is overcome and dies, leaving Rothbart to take Odette triumphantly up to the heavens.
In a version which has an ending very close to the 1895 Mariinsky revival, danced by American Ballet Theatre in 2005, 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 Rothbart's power, and he is destroyed. In the final tableau, the lovers are seen rising together to heaven in apotheosis.
In a version danced by New York City Ballet in 2006 (with choreography by Peter Martins after Lev Ivanov, Marius Petipa, and George Balanchine), 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.
In the 2006 version by Stanton Welch for Houston Ballet, also based upon Petipa and Ivanov, the last scene has Prince Siegfried attempting to kill Rothbart with his crossbow, missing and hitting Odette instead. Odette falls, Rothbart's spell now broken, and regains human form. The Prince embraces her as she dies, then carries her lifeless body into the lake, where he also drowns himself.
In a version danced by San Francisco Ballet in 2009, Siegfried and Odette throw themselves into the lake, as in the 1895 Mariinsky revival, and Rothbart is destroyed. Two swans, implied to be the lovers, are then seen flying past the Moon.
In a version danced by National Ballet of Canada in 2010, 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.
In the 2015 English National Ballet version My First Swan Lake, specifically recreated for young children, the power of Siegfried and Odette's love enables the other swans to rise up and defeat Rothbart, who falls to his death. This breaks the curse, and Siegfried and Odette live happily ever after. This is like the Mariinsky Ballet's "Happily ever after" endings. In a new production in 2018, Odile helps Siegfried and Odette in the end. Rotbart, who is not the father, but Odile's brother in this production, is forgiven and he gives up his evil power. Odette and Siegfried live happily ever after and stay friends with Rotbart and Odile. This is actually the only Swan Lake production that grants a peaceful solution and a happily ever after even for the characters Odile and Rotbart.
In Hübbe and Schandorff's 2015 and 2016 Royal Danish Ballet production, Siegfried is forced by Rothbart to marry his daughter, after condemning Odette to her curse as a swan forever by mistakenly professing his love to Odile.
The score used in this résumé is Tchaikovsky's score as he originally composed it (including later additions of the original 1877 production). The score as listed here is different from the score as revised by Riccardo Drigo for the revival of Petipa and Ivanov that is still used to one extent or another by most ballet companies today. The titles for each number are taken from the original published score. Some of the numbers are titled simply as musical indications, those that are not are translated from their original French titles.
Introduction: Moderato assai - Allegro non-troppo - Tempo I
No. 1 Scène: Allegro giusto
No. 2 Waltz: Tempo di valse
No. 3 Scène: Allegro moderato
No. 4 Pas de trois
1. Intrada (or Entrée): Allegro
2. Andante sostenuto
3. Allegro semplice, Presto
6. Coda: Allegro vivace
No. 5 Pas de deux for Two Merry-makers (this number was later fashioned into the Black Swan Pas de Deux)
1. Tempo di valse ma non troppo vivo, quasi moderato
2. Andante - Allegro
3. Tempo di valse
4. Coda: Allegro molto vivace
No. 6 Pas d'action: Andantino quasi moderato - Allegro
No. 7 Sujet (Introduction to the Dance with Goblets)
No. 8 Dance with Goblets: Tempo di polacca
No. 9 Finale: Sujet, Andante
No. 10 Scène: Moderato
No. 11 Scène: Allegro moderato, Moderato, Allegro vivo
No. 12 Scène: Allegro, Moderato assai quasi andante
No. 24 Scène: Allegro, Tempo di valse, Allegro vivo
No. 25 Entr'acte: Moderato
No. 26 Scène: Allegro non-troppo
No. 27 Dance of the Little Swans: Moderato
No. 28 Scène: Allegro agitato, Molto meno mosso, Allegro vivace
No. 29 Scène finale: Andante, Allegro, Alla breve, Moderato e maestoso, Moderato
Adaptations and references
Live action film
The opening credits for the first sound version of Dracula (1931) starring Béla Lugosi includes a modified version of the Swan Theme from act 2. The same piece was later used for the credits of The Mummy (1932) and is often used as a backing track for the silent film, Phantom of the Opera (1925).
The ballet is central to the plot of "Étoile" (1989).
In Brain Donors (1992), the three main characters try and succeed in sabotaging a fictional production of the ballet.
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan (2010) focuses on two characters from Swan Lake--the Princess Odette, sometimes called the White Swan, and her evil duplicate, the witch Odile (the Black Swan), and takes its inspiration from the ballet's story, although it does not literally follow it. Clint Mansell's score contains music from the ballet, with more elaborate restructuring to fit the horror tone of the film.
The Chinese State Circus has made an acrobatic version of the ballet, which is[when?] on tour around the world. Set to excerpts from Tchaikovsky's suite, it contains such acrobatic moves as Odette doing a pirouette on top of Siegfried's head, without any supports.
Animated theatrical and direct-to-video productions
Swan Lake (1994) is a 28-minute traditional two-dimensional animation narrated by Dudley Moore. It is one of five animations in the Storyteller's Classics series. Like the 1981 version, it also uses Tchaikovsky's music throughout and is quite faithful to the original story. What sets it apart is the climactic scene, in which the prince swims across the lagoon towards Rothbart's castle to rescue Odette, who is being held prisoner there. Rothbart points his finger at the prince and zaps him to turn him into a duck - but then, the narrator declares, "Sometimes, even magic can go very, very wrong." After a moment, the duck turns into an eagle and flies into Rothbart's castle, where the prince resumes his human form and engages Rothbart in battle. This animation was produced by Madman Movies for Castle Communications. The director was Chris Randall, the producer was Bob Burrows, the production co-ordinator was Lesley Evans and the executive producers were Terry Shand and Geoff Kempin. The music was performed by the Moscow State Orchestra. It was shown on TVOntario in December 1997 and was distributed on home video in North America by Castle Vision International, Orion Home Video and J.L. Bowerbank & Associates.
Barbie of Swan Lake (2003) is a direct-to-video children's movie featuring Tchaikovsky's music and motion capture from the New York City Ballet and based on the Swan Lake story. The story deviates more from the original than The Swan Princess, although it does consist of similarities to the plot from The Swan Princess. In this version, Odette is not a princess by birth, but a baker's daughter and instead of being kidnapped by Rothbart and taken to the lake against her will, she discovers the Enchanted Forest when she willingly follows a unicorn there. She is also made into a more dominant heroine in this version, as she is declared as being the one who is destined to save the forest from Rothbart's clutches when she frees a magic crystal. Another difference is the addition of new characters, such as Rothbart's cousin the Fairy Queen, Lila the unicorn, Erasmus the troll and the Fairy Queen's fairies and elves, who have also been turned into animals by Rothbart. These fairies and elves replace the Swan Maidens from the ballet. Also, it is the Fairy Queen's magic that allows Odette to return to her human form at night, not Rothbart's spell, which until the Fairy Queen counters, appears to be permanent. Other changes include renaming the Prince Daniel and a happy ending, instead of the ballet's tragic ending.
The 1990 LucasArts adventure game Loom used a major portion of the Swan Lake suite for its audio track, as well as incorporating a major swan theme into the storyline. It otherwise bore no resemblance to the original ballet.
The 1991 DMA Design puzzle game Lemmings used "Dance of the Little Swans" in its soundtrack.
The 2008 Nintendo DS game Imagine Ballet Star contains a shortened version of Swan Lake. The main character, who is directly controlled by the player of the game, dances to three shortened musical pieces from Swan Lake. Two of the pieces are solos and the third piece is a pas de deux.
The Silent Violinist, a professional mime busker act, that references the "swan princess" concept.
The Swedish dancer/choreographer Fredrik Rydman has produced a modern dance/street dance interpretation of the ballet entitled Swan Lake Reloaded. It depicts the "swans" as heroin addict prostitutes who are kept in place by Rothbart, their pimp. The production's music uses themes and melodies from Tchaikovsky's score and incorporates them into hip-hop and techno tunes.
Amiri & Odette (2009) is a verse retelling by Walter Dean Myers with illustrations by Javaka Steptoe. Myers sets the story in the Swan Lake Projects of a large city. Amiri is a basketball-playing "Prince of the Night", a champion of the asphalt courts in the park. Odette belongs to Big Red, a dealer, a power on the streets.
The Black Swan (1999) is a fantasy novel written by Mercedes Lackey that re-imagines the original story and focuses heavily on Odile. Rothbart's daughter is a sorceress in her own right who comes to sympathise with Odette.
The Sorcerer's Daughter (2003) is a fantasy novel by Irina Izmailova, a retelling of the ballet's plot. The boyish and careless Siegfried consciously prefers the gentle, equally childlike Odile, while the stern and proud Odette is from the very beginning attracted to Rothbart (who later turns out to be the kingdom's rightful monarch in hiding).
Swan Lake (1989) is a children's novel written by Mark Helprin and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, which re-creates the original story as a tale about political strife in an unnamed Eastern European country. In it, Odette becomes a princess hidden from birth by the puppetmaster (and eventually usurper) behind the throne, with the story being retold to her child.
Billy Elliot the Musical incorporates the most famous section of Swan Lake in a dance number, in which the main character dances while shadowed by his future, adult self.
The musical Anastasia includes a scene in which several of the main characters attend a performance of Swan Lake in Paris near the show's climax. The four characters sing about their inner conflicts and desires as Tchaikovsky's score blends into the musical's melodies, the dancers onstage representing both the ballet's characters and the thoughts of each singer in turn.
Princess Tutu (2002) is an anime television series whose heroine, Duck, wears a costume reminiscent of Odette's. She is a duck transformed by a writer into a girl (rather than the other way around), while her antagonist, Rue, dressed as Odile, is a girl who had been raised to believe she is a raven. Other characters include Mytho in the role of Siegfried, who is even referred to by this name towards the end of the second act, and Drosselmeyer playing in the role of Rothbart. The score of Swan Lake, along with that of The Nutcracker, is used throughout, as is, occasionally, the Petipa choreography, most notably in episode 13, where Duck dances the climactic Pas de Deux alone, complete with failed lifts and catches.
In the second season of the anime Kaleido Star, a circus adaptation of Swan Lake becomes one of the Kaleido Stage's most important and successful shows. Main character Sora Naegino plays Princess Odette, with characters Leon Oswald as Prince Siegfried and May Wong as Odile.
An episode of Saturday Night Live contains a "Bad Ballet" entitled Swan, which, according to Leonard Pinth-Garnell (Dan Aykroyd), should not be confused with Swan Lake.
ABC's Once Upon a Time has a main character named Emma Swan, which is a play on the Swan Princess character and is the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White. In season 5, the character becomes the newest Dark One and gets the nickname the Dark Swan, also making her an adaptation of Odile, the Black Swan.
During the August Putsch of 1991 in Russia a recording of Swan Lake was broadcast via all the radio and TV channels.
Virtual world adaptations
In 2014 the Little Princess Ballet Academy (LPBA) performed the entire Swan Lake in Second Life. The adaption follows the original, but some parts like the pas de deux were not possible to perform in Second Life and has been changed. All parts are played by individual avatars.
In the late Soviet Union, this ballet was usually shown on TV instead of planned entertainment programs as a part of mourning arrangements in the cases of general secretary death. In 1991, Swan Lake became one of the symbols of the August Putsch for many people in the post-Soviet states, because during this event all USSR TV channels broadcast the ballet repeatedly for three days in a row.