It was called the last romantic work of European culture. How was one of the most famous ballets in the world created and transformed over the centuries?


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History of creation: how children`s ballet turned into an innovative work

In 1871, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote a one-act children's ballet "Swan Lake". The composer presented the work to the public at the Kamenka estate.

And four years later, in 1875, he received an order to write a ballet from the directorate of the imperial theaters. At that time it was at least unusual, because composers of this level did not write ballets. However, Pyotr Ilyich agreed and worked on the music for about a year, simultaneously creating a Third Symphony.

In the libretto by Vladimir Begichev and Vasily Geltser, the love story is based on a German legend and fairy tales with a similar plot, when evil spells turn a beautiful girl into a snow-white swan, and only the power of love can return her human form. See this website for reference: Swan Lake ballet.

Swans on the lake

There is no consensus on what was the source of inspiration for the composer. It is known that Pyotr Ilyich once rested in the Cherkasy region: admired nature and saw graceful swans. Tchaikovsky also visited Bavaria: he saw the castle of King Ludwig II in Neuschwanstein. This fact inspired ballet artists who in different years used to stage the scenery of a Gothic castle. By the way, the Bavarian king himself was considered a prototype of Prince Siegfried.

The score of the work turned out to be revolutionary in its novelty. It is known that the composer partially quoted his opera "Undine", which he had previously destroyed. However, the music of "Swan Lake" turned out to be original and unusual. Typical ballet music of those years is simple, performing the role of rhythmic accompaniment of what is happening on stage. Tchaikovsky, with his inherent symphonism, creates powerful lyrical themes that turned out to be end-to-end for the entire ballet. The premiere of "Swan Lake" took place in 1877. The main part was to be performed by the prima ballerina Anna Sobeschanskaya, but she refused and even quarreled with Tchaikovsky because of the lack of a solo number in the third act. Subsequently, the composer nevertheless went to meet her halfway and increased the third act at the expense of a solo.

Swan Lake Ballet

This production by choreographer Wenzel Reisinger on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater did not meet with the approval of the public and critics. She lasted only 8 seasons in the playbill. Critic Herman Laroche wrote:

"According to the music, Swan Lake is the best ballet I've ever heard… According to the dances, "Swan Lake" is perhaps the most official, boring and poor ballet of those that are given in Russia."

But contemporaries noted the work of the decorator Karl Waltz. The St. Petersburg decorator worked on the visual accompaniment of the second and fourth acts of "Swan Lake". He created a mountainous landscape on the stage, and was also responsible for lighting during the performance. Karl Waltz was an innovator, having developed a technology for using water vapor. So it was possible to create the illusion of fog over the lake.