Swan Lake is a ballet composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875–76…..which despite its initial failure, has now one of the most popular ballets of all time…..as the scenario, initially in two acts, was fashioned from Russian and German folk tales….and tells the story of Odette…..who was a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. The choreographer of the original production was Julius Reisinger (Václav Reisinger)….and the ballet was premiered by the Bolshoi Ballet in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow…..and 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….which was first staged for the Imperial Ballet on 1895 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. For this revival, Tchaikovsky’s score was revised by the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre’s chief conductor and composer Riccardo Drigo
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840 – November 6, 1893) was a Russian composer of the romantic period…..who was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally…. as it was bolstered by his appearances as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States. He was honored in 1884 by Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension.
Although musically precocious, Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant. There was scant opportunity for a musical career in Russia at that time and no system of public music education. When an opportunity for such an education arose, he entered the nascent Saint Petersburg Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1865. The formal Western-oriented teaching he received there set him apart from composers of the contemporary nationalist movement embodied by the Russian composers of The Five….with whom his professional relationship was mixed. Tchaikovsky’s training set him on a path to reconcile what he had learned with the native musical practices to which he had been exposed from childhood. From this reconciliation he forged a personal but unmistakably Russian style….which was a task that did not prove easy. The principles that governed melody, harmony and other fundamentals of Russian music ran completely counter to those that governed Western European music….as this seemed to defeat the potential for using Russian music in large-scale Western composition….or for forming a composite style…..and it caused personal antipathies that dented Tchaikovsky’s self-confidence. Russian culture exhibited a split personality….with its native and adopted elements having drifted apart increasingly since the time of Peter the Great. This resulted in uncertainty among the intelligentsia about the country’s national identity—an ambiguity mirrored in Tchaikovsky’s career.
In this video rendition of this Tchaikovsky music from his epic ballet Swan Lake…..the viewer is truly treated to a wonderful Gary Weiss film which portrays four black modern dance performers in white tuxedos and with top hats adding their moves to the four ballerinas performing the Swan dance.