Things you don’t know about Swan Lake
Earlier this year I wrote a piece for YOU magazine, in their hugely popular ‘Things You Don’t Know’ column, about Swan Lake. The column isn’t published online, which means that if you miss the Sunday edition, you’ve missed TYDK.
Swan Lake, or Lac des cygnes) has so much history and its four acts are probably the most well known of all ballets. Even if you’ve never seen it, you probably have a fairly accurate image in your mind of what the ballet looks like, thanks to the enduring image of the Corps de ballet swans all dressed in white tutus. Costumes vary between companies, and sometimes you’ll see black cygnets or swans still in white but longer dresses rather than tutus. Feathers or sequins, or both, may prevail.
It’s certainly performed more frequently than almost any other. The original 1877 choreography has not survived (that we know of – wouldn’t that be a discovery ?), adding to the mystery, and over the years so many changes have been made that you could see a happy ending.. or not, depending on the production. Undoubtedly, the dual Principal role of Odette and Odile is one of the most testing in ballet, and Swan Lake is a ballet where most ballerinas test their classical ability against the standard.
Tchaikovsky’s wonderful music is credited with much of the enduring success of the ballet, but he died on 6th November 1893 without seeing it staged successfully (just 2 years later, in St Petersburg, 1895), when major changes had been made to his original score. Nevertheless his genius gave us The Sleeping Beauty (in 1890) and The Nutcracker (in 1892) and this triptych is among the best known of all ballet music today.
So, reproduced by kind permission of YOU magazine, here is a potted history of Swan Lake and some quirky things you (hopefully) didn’t know !
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