The Ballet Called Swan Lake, 1st Edition, pub 1952.
Beaumont’s volume is in two parts: the first examining the history of this most enduringly popular ballet and the second dissecting the choreography of all four acts - from both sides of the curtain - with explanation to the spectator and instruction on the minutiae of steps to the dancer/producer (including a handy fold-out diagram to correspond stage directions with positions…did we mention it’s a little nerdy?!).
One of the most technically and emotionally challenging ballets to perform, Swan Lake’s leading roles of Odette and her evil doppelgänger Odile - usually undertaken by the same dancer - have become a rite of passage for prima ballerinas, famously Fonteyn, Ulanova and Makarova.
Interestingly, the original production by choreographer Julius Reisinger, danced by the Bolshoi in 1877, was something of a flop and it wasn’t until 1895, when it was revived by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a revised Tchaikovsky score, that it began to make waves.
The origins of the libretto aren’t clear, though it likely involves German folk stories. One theory is that Tchaikovsky - who was commissioned to write the score for 800 roubles - was fascinated by the Bavarian King Ludwig II, aka The Swan King, who drowned in mysterious circumstances in a lake. Could he have been the inspiration for Prince Siegfried?
The ballet’s story is certainly similarly tragic: Odette and her bevy of friends, swans by day, human form by night, are under a spell from the evil von Rothbart. Our hero, Siegfried, has the power to release them if only he declares his love for Odette…except our evil villain has unleashed his daughter Odile, magically disguised as Odette, to fool the Prince. Of course our hapless hero picks the wrong woman and all is lost...the spell only finally broken when Siegfried and Odette drown in a lake of tears, uniting them in death for all eternity… music swells, curtain falls.
The Ballet Called Swan Lake
- Product Code: Beaumont, Cyril
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