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Swan Lake ( , Lebedinoye Ozero) is a ballet, op. 20, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, composed 1875–1876. The scenario, initially in four acts, by Vladimir Begichev and Vasiliy Geltser was fashioned from Russian folk tales as well as an ancient German legend, which tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse. The choreographer of the original production was Julius Reisinger. The ballet received its premiere on February 27, 1877, at the Bolshoi Theatremarker in Moscowmarker as The Lake of the Swans. 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, first staged for the Imperial Ballet on January 15, 1895, at the Mariinsky Theatremarker in St. Petersburg, Russiamarker. For this revival, Tchaikovsky's score was revised by the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre's chief conductor and composer Riccardo Drigo.



Many critics have disputed the original source of the Swan Lake story. The Russian ballet patriarch Fyodor Lopuokhov has called Swan Lake a "national ballet" due to its swans who originate from Russian lyrically romantic sources, while many of the movements of the corps de ballet originated from Slavonic ring-dances. According to Lopukhov, "both the plot of Swan Lake (despite the fact that it is based on German source), the image of the Swan and the very idea of a faithful love are essentially Russian". The libretto is based on a story by the German author Johann Karl August Musäus "Der geraubte Schleier" (The Stolen Veil), however this story provides only the general outline of the plot of Swan Lake. The Russian folktale "The White Duck" also bears some resemblance to the story of the ballet and might have been another possible source. The contemporaries of Tchaikovsky recalled the composer taking great interest in the life story of Bavarian King Ludwig II, the tragic life of whom had allegedly been marked by the sign of Swan and who—either consciously or not—was chosen as the prototype of the dreamer Prince Siegfried.

Irish mythology has not been mentioned as a direct source of inspiration; however, the episode known as Caer Ibormeith shares many of the same mythical elements and might be related to the German legend which inspired the ballet.

Composition History

Design by F.
Gaanen for the décor of Act II of Swan Lake, Moscow, 1877
The origins of the ballet Swan Lake are rather obscured, and since there are very few records concerning the first production of the work to have survived, there can be only speculation about who was the author of the original libretto. The most authoritative theory appears to be that it was written by Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres during the time that the ballet was originally produced, and possibly Vasily Geltser, Danseur of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatremarker. However, Geltser was in all probability merely the first person to copy the scenario for publication, as a surviving copy bears his name. Since the first published libretto of the ballet and the actual music composed by Tchaikovsky do not correspond in many places, we may conjecture that the first actual published libretto was possibly crafted by a newspaper writer who had viewed the initial rehearsals, as new productions of operas and ballets were always reported in the newspapers of Imperial Russia, along with their respective scenarios.

According to two of Tchaikovsky's relatives—his nephew Yuri Lvovich Davydov and his niece Anna Meck-Davydov—the composer had earlier created a little ballet called The Lake of the Swans at their home in 1871. This ballet featured the famous leitmotif known as the Swan's Theme (or Song of the Swans ). Begichev commissioned the score of Swan Lake from Tchaikovsky in 1875 for a rather modest fee of 800 ruble, and soon Begichev began to choose artists that would participate in the creation of the ballet. The choreographer assigned to the production was the Czech Julius Reisinger (1827-1892), who had been engaged as balletmaster to the Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatremarker (today known as the Bolshoi Ballet) since 1873. It is not known what sort of collaborative processes were involved between Tchaikovsky and Reisinger. Tchaikovsky likely had some form of instruction in composing Swan Lake, as he had to know what sort of dances would be required. But unlike the instructions that Tchaikovsky received for the scores of The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, no such written instruction is known to have survived.

Swan Lake was the first ballet set to the score of a symphonic composer. 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": composers 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 these "specialists", such as the Italian Cesare Pugni and the Czechoslovakian Léon 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 featured the use of the technique known as leitmotif: 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 in for his Swan Lake score. He made use of material from The Voyevoda, an opera that 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 "unsuitable for ballet." Reisinger even began choreographing dances to other composers' music, but Tchaikovsky protested, and his pieces were reinstated.

Performance history

Moscow Premiere (World Premiere)

St. Petersburg Premiere

Other Notable Productions

Original Interpreters

Role Moscow 1877 Moscow 1880 St. Petersburg 1895 Moscow 1901 London 1911
Princess Olga Nikolayeva Giuseppina Cecchetti
Siegfried A. Gillert Alfred Bekefi Pavel Gerdt Mikhail Mordkin Vatslav Nizhinsky
Benno Sergey Nikitin Aleksandr Oblakov
Wolfgang Wilhelm Wanner Gillert
Odette Pelageya Karpakova Yevdokiya Kalmїkova Pierina Legnani Adelaide Giuri Matilda Kshesinskaya
Von Rothbart Sergey Sokolov Aleksey Bulgakov K. Kubakin
Pierina Legnani Matilda Kshesinskaya

Original Production of 1877

The premiere of Swan Lake on March 4, 1877, was given as a benefit performance for the ballerina Pelageya Karpakova (also known as Polina Karpakova), who created the role of Odette, with the Bolshoy Theatre's Premiere Danseur Victor Gillert as Prince Siegfried. Karpakova likely also danced the part Odile, although it is not known for certain.

The Russian ballerina Anna Sobeshchanskaya—for whom the original (1877) role of Odette was intended—was pulled from the premiere performance when a governing official in Moscow complained about her, stating that she had accepted several pieces of expensive jewelry from him, only to then marry a fellow danseur and sell the pieces for cash. Sobeshchanskaya was replaced by Pelageya Karpakova who danced the role of the Swan Queen until the former was reinstated by Petipa.

The premiere was not well-received, with near unanimous criticism concerning the dancers, orchestra, and décor. Unfortunately Tchaikovsky's masterful score was lost in the debacle of the poor production, and though there were a few critics who recognized its virtues, most considered it to be far too complicated for ballet. Most of the critics were not themselves familiar with ballet or music but rather with spoken melodrama. Critics considered Tchaikovsky's music "too noisy, too 'Wagnerian' and too symphonic". The critics also found fault with Reisinger's choreography which they thought was "unimaginative and altogether unmemorable".

The production was unsuccessful due to several reasons. The German origins of the story of Swan Lake were "treated with suspicion while the tale itself was regarded as 'stupid' with unpronouncable surnames for its characters". The dancer of Odette (and probably Odile though this has never been proved for certain) was a secondary soloist and "not particularly convincing".

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux 1877

Anna Sobeshchanskaya as Odette in Julius Reisinger's original production of Swan Lake, Moscow, 1877
In spite of the poor reaction to the premiere, the ballet nevertheless continued being performed. On April 26, 1877 the prima ballerina of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre Anna Sobeshchanskaya made her début as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, and from the start she was completely dissatisfied with the production of the ballet, but most of all with Reisinger's choreography and Tchaikovsky's music. Sobeshchanskaya travelled to St. Petersburg to have Marius PetipaPremier Maître de Ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres—choreograph a new pas de deux to replace the Pas de six that functioned as the third act's Grand Pas. For a ballerina to request a supplemental pas or variation was standard practice in 19th century ballet, and often these "custom-made" dances quite literally became the legal property of the ballerina they were composed for.

Petipa choreographed Sobeshchanskaya's pas de deux to music composed by Ludwig Minkus, who held the post of Ballet composer to the St Petersburg Imperial Theatres. The piece was a standard pas de deux classique that consisted of a short entrée, the grand adage, a variation for the danseur, a variation for the ballerina, and a coda.

Word of this change soon found its way to Tchaikovsky, who became very angry, stating that, whether the ballet is good or bad, he alone shall be held responsible for its music. He then agreed to compose a new pas de deux for the ballerina, but soon a problem arose: Sobeshchanskaya had no reservations about performing a pas to Tchaikovsky's new music, but she wanted to retain Petipa's choreography, and she had no wish to travel to St. Petersburg again to have the Ballet Master arrange a new pas for her. In light of this, Tchaikovsky agreed to compose a pas that would correspond to Minkus' music to such a degree that the ballerina would not even be required to rehearse. Sobeshchanskaya was so pleased with Tchaikovsky's new version of the Minkus music that she requested he compose for her an additional variation, which he did.

Until 1953 this pas de deux was thought to be lost, until an accidentally discovered repétitéur 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 Ballerina Violette Verdy, and the Danseur Conrad Ludlow under the title Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, as it is still known and performed today.

Subsequent productions 1879-1894

Julius Reisinger left Moscow in 1879, and his successor as Balletmaster was Joseph Peter Hansen. Hansen made considerable efforts throughout the late 1870s/early 1880s to salvage Swan Lake, and on January 13, 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 it was by no means a great success. Hansen presented another version of Swan Lake on October 28, 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 January 2, 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 premiere 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 Theatremarker in London, and on December 1, 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 February 21, 1888, in Praguemarker by the Ballet of the National Theatremarker 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 Zdenek, with the role of Benno danced by a female dancer en travestie. The role 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 materialized.

Petipa-Ivanov-Drigo revival of 1895

Pavel Gerdt as Prince Siegfried (Mariinsky Theatre, 1895)
Pierina Legnani as Odette (1895)
Ivanov's 1895 choreography for the Dance of the Little Swans

During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Petipa and Vsevolozhsky considered reviving Swan Lake and were in talks with Tchaikovsky about doing so. However, Tchaikovsky died on November 6, 1893, just when plans to revive Swan Lake were beginning to come to fruition. It remains uncertain whether Tchaikovsky was even going to revise the music for the prospected revival of Swan Lake. Whatever the case, as a result of Tchaikovsky's death, Drigo was forced to revise the score himself, but not before receiving approval from Modeste. There are major differences between Drigo's Swan Lake score and Tchaikovsky's score. (Today, it is Riccardo Drigo's revision of Tchaikovsky's score as done for Petipa and Ivanov's 1895 revival, and not Tchaikovsky's original score of 1877, that many—though by no means all—ballet companies use when performing Swan Lake.)

In February 1894, two memorial concerts planned by Vsevolozhsky were given in honor of Tchaikovsky. The production included the second scene of Swan Lake, choreographed Lev Ivanov, Second Balletmaster to the Imperial Ballet. Ivanov's choreography for the memorial concert was unanimously hailed as wonderful.

The Ballerina who danced Odile was the Italian virtuosa Pierina Legnani, and it was because of her great talent that the prospected revival of Swan Lake was planned for her benefit performance in the 1894-1895 season. She had made her début with the Imperial Ballet in Cinderella, produced in December 1893 (choreographed by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, and Enrico Cecchetti to the music of Baron Boris Fitinhof-Schell). Her performance demonstrated her phenomenal technique, climaxing in her variation from the final tableau no fewer than thirty-two fouettés en tournant (the most ever performed at that time) during the grand pas. The dazzled public roared with demands for an encore, and the Ballerina repeated her variation, this time performing twenty-eight fouettés en tournant.

However, the death of Tsar Alexander III on November 1, 1894 and the period of official mourning which followed it brought all ballet performances and rehearsals to a close for some time, and as a result all efforts were able to be concentrated on the pre-production of the revival of Swan Lake. Ivanov and Petipa chose to collaborate on the production, with Ivanov retaining his dances for the second scene while choreographing the fourth, and with Petipa staging the first and third scenes.

Tchaikovsky's brother Modeste was called upon to make the required changes to the ballet's libretto, the most prominent being his revision of the ballet's finale; instead of the lovers simply drowning at the hand of the wicked Von Rothbart 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 II becoming Act I-Scene 2, Act III becoming Act II, and Act IV becoming Act III.

All was ready by the beginning of 1895, and the ballet had its premiere on January 15. Pierina Legnani danced Odette/Odile, with Pavel Gerdt as Prince Siegfried, Alexei Bulgakov as Von Rothbart, and Alexander Oblakov as Benno.

The premiere of the Petipa/Ivanov/Drigo was quite a success, though not as much of one as it has been in modern times. Most of the reviews in the St. Petersburg newspapers were positive.

Unlike the premiere 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 premiere 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 role as was her Italian predecessor.

Later productions

Throughout the long and complex performance history of Swan Lake the 1895 edition of Petipa, Ivanov, and Drigo has served as the version from which many stagings have been based. Nearly every balletmaster or choreographer who has re-staged Swan Lake has sought to make modifications to the ballet's scenario, while still maintaining to a considerable extent the traditional choreography for the dances, which is regarded as virtually sacrosanct. Likewise, over time the role of Siegfried has become far more prominent, due largely to the evolution of ballet technique.

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 whilst confined to an asylum, set to the dramatic music for the Act Three 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, for instance, departed from the traditional ballet by replacing the female corps de ballet with male dancers. Since its inception in 1995, Matthew Bourne's production has never been off the stage, somewhere in the world, for more than a few months. It has toured the United Kingdom and returned to London several times. It has been performed on extended tours in Greece, Israel, Turkey, Australia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States, in addition to the United Kingdom.

  • 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 Von Rothbart first transforms Odette into a swan. This prologue is similar to the Vladimir Burmeister's production of the "Swan Lake" (firstly staged in Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow, 1953) but has some differences. Von 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. About half-an-hour of the complete score is omitted from this production.


Swan Lake is scored for the typical romantic-sized orchestra:


  • The Sovereign Princess
  • Prince Siegfried, her son
  • Wolfgang, his tutor
  • Benno von Sommerstern, the Prince's friend
  • Odette, a good fairy
  • von Rothbart, an evil genius, by appearance a guest
  • Odile, his daughter, resembling Odette
  • Master of ceremonies
  • Baron von Stein
  • The Baroness, his wife
  • Freiherr von Schwarzfels
  • His wife
  • A herald
  • A footman
  • Court gentlemen and ladies, friends of the prince, heralds, guests, pages, villagers, servants, swans, cygnets

Note: By 1895 Benno von Sommerstern became 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". Rothbart ("Redbeard") may also be spelled Rotbart.

Von Rothbart

Von Rothbart is a fictional villain in Swan Lake. Rothbart is rarely seen in human form in most productions as he appears as an evil bird for most of the ballet. His human form is seen once in the scene with his daughter Odile, when she dances with the Prince Siegfried.

Rothbart is a powerful sorcerer who turns the girl Odette into a Swan during the daylight hours and yet when the sun sets she can return to human form until day break. The reason for Rothbart's curse upon her is not known; yet several other versions of the ballet including two feature films have suggested other reasons.

The story changes in each version, yet when Rothbart realises that Odette falls in love with the Prince Siegfried he tries to intervene by tricking Siegfried into marrying his daughter Odile; the plan succeeds yet Rothbart's fate is undecided depending on the ballet. In some versions his fate is unknown and yet it is presumed that he has survived, in the original version the love of the two dying lovers breaks the spell and Rothbart is overthrown and destroyed.

Rothbart's only powers displayed in the ballet are his multiple ability to change into an owl and to disguise his daughter into the looks of Odette. In the 1994 animated feature The Swan Princess he has great and varied magical abilities and often changes himself into a giant winged monster; the Barbie version he has multiple powers and changes characters and objects into animals; he also can change into an Eagle-type monster.

In the second American Ballet Theatre production of Swan Lake, telecast by PBS in 2005 and now out on DVD, Von Rothbart is porttrayed by two dancers. One of them depicts him as young and handsome; it is this Von Rothbart that is able to lure Odette and transform her into a swan (this is shown during the introduction to the ballet in a danced prologue especially created by choreographer Kevin McKenzie). He is also able to entice the Prince to dance with Odile, and thus seal Odette's doom. The other Von Rothbart, a repulsive, reptilian-like creature, always reveals himself only after he has accomplished an evil deed, such as transforming Odette into a swan. In this version, the lover's joint suicide inspires the rest of Von Rothbart's imprisoned swans to turn on him and overcome his spell which ultimately kills him.

In The Swan Princess, a animated adaptation of Swan Lake without Tchaikovsky's music, Von Rothbart quests to be King and needs Odette who is known to be a princess. She rejects him, for she is already in love with the Prince Derek, whom she has known since birth; Von Rothbart, not knowing of this, changes Odette into a Swan and carries her away in the night. Only through true love's kiss and the destruction of the sorcerer can Odette change back. In the Swan Princess version, Rothbart transforms into a giant winged creature known as the "Great Animal" and attacks the Prince, after a short melee, the Prince shoots him with an arrow and he collapses into the Lake dead; his powers destroyed along with him. However, his memory returns in the two subsequent sequels in which his old friend wizard and his old love both try to resurrect the Dark Arts.

In another version, Barbie takes on the ballet; Rothbart changes Odette into a Swan because she is the prophesied Chosen One who will release the curse that he has placed upon the forest. To prove his powers over Odette, he changes her into a Swan but cannot harm her because of a 'Magic' Crystal. In the Barbie version he does seem to kill the lovers, but is destroyed by the Crystal's power that returns after the two prove their love. While Rothbart seems to explode he actually transforms into the bird in a cuckoo clock in a subsequent scene in which the villains of these films never seem to die.


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).

Act 1A magnificent park before a castle.

Swan Lake begins at a royal court. Prince Siegfried, heir to the kingdom, must declare a wife at his birthday ball. Upset that he cannot marry for love, Siegfried escapes into the forest at night. As he sees a flock of swans flying overhead, he sets off in pursuit.

Act 2A mountainous wild place, surrounded by forest. In the distance a lake, on the right side of which are ruins. A moonlit night.

The Valse des cygnes from Act II of the Ivanov/Petipa edition of Swan Lake
Siegfried aims his crossbow at the swans and readies himself for their landing by the lakeside. When one comes into view, however, he stops. Before him is a beautiful creature dressed in white feathers, more woman than swan. Enamoured, the two dance and Siegfried learns that the swan maiden is the princess Odette. An evil sorcerer, von Rothbart, captured her and used his magic to turn Odette into a swan by day and woman by night.

A retinue of other captured swan-maidens attend Odette in the environs of Swan Lake, which was formed by the tears of her parents when she was kidnapped by von Rothbart. Once Siegfried knows her story, he takes great pity on her and falls in love. As he begins to swear his love to her—an act that will render the sorcerer's spell powerless—von Rothbart appears. Siegfried threatens to kill him but Odette intercedes. If von Rothbart dies before the spell is broken, it can never be undone.

Act 3An opulent hall in the castle.

The Prince returns to the castle to attend the ball. Von Rothbart arrives in disguise with his own daughter Odile, making her seem identical to Odette in all respects except that she wears black while Odette wears white. The prince mistakes her for Odette, dances with her, and proclaims to the court that he intends to make her his wife. Only a moment too late, Siegfried sees the real Odette and realizes his mistake. The method in which Odette appears varies: in some versions she arrives at the castle, while in other versions von Rothbart shows Siegfried a magical vision of her.

Act 4Same scene by the lake as in Act 2.

Siegfried returns to the lake and finds Odette, where she forgives him after he apologizes intensely. Von Rothbart appears, trying to pull the lovers apart. The two realize the spell can't be broken because of Siegfried's accidental pledge to Odile. In order to stay together, Odette and Siegfried kill themselves by leaping into the lake and drowning. This causes von Rothbart to lose his power over them, and he dies as a result.

Note: Many different endings exist, ranging from romantic to tragic:
  • In a version which has an ending very close to the original danced by American Ballet Theatre in 2005, Siegfried's mistaken pledge of fidelity to Odile consigns Odette to eternal swanhood. 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 von 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 the Mariinsky Ballet in 2006, the true love between Siegfried and Odette defeats von Rothbart, who dies after the prince breaks one of his wings. Odette is restored to human form to unite happily with the prince. This version has often been used by Russian and Chinese ballet companies. A similar ending was used in The Swan Princess.
  • 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 a version danced by San Francisco Ballet in 2009, Siegfried and Odette throw themselves into the lake, as is traditional, and von Rothbart is destroyed. Two swans, implied to be the lovers, are then seen flying past the moon.


The score used in this comparison is Tchaikovsky's score, which may be different from Drigo's score, which is commonly performed 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

Act 1

No. 1 Scène: Allegro giusto
No. 2 Waltz: Tempo di valse
No. 3 Scène: Allegro moderato
No. 4 Pas de trois
:I. Intrada (or Entrée): Allegro
:II. Andante sostenuto
:III. Variation: Allegro semplice, Presto
:IV. Variation: Moderato
:V. Variation: Allegro
:VI. Coda: Allegro vivace
No. 5 Pas de deux for Two Merry-makers (this number was later fashioned into the Black Swan Pas de Deux)
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

Act II

No. 10 Scène: Moderato
No. 11 Scène: Allegro moderato, Moderato, Allegro vivo
No. 12 Scène: Allegro, Moderato assai quasi andante
No. 13 Dances of the Swans
:I. Tempo di valse
:II. Moderato assai
:III. Tempo di valse
:IV. Allegro moderato (this number later became the famous Dance of the Little Swans)
:V. Pas d'action: Andante, Andante non troppo, Allegro (material borrowed from Undina)
:VI. Tempo di valse
:VII. Coda: Allegro vivo
No. 14 Scène: Moderato


No. 15 Scène: March – Allegro giusto
No. 16 Ballabile: Dance of the Corps de Ballet and the Dwarves: Moderato assai, Allegro vivo
No. 17 Entrance of the Guests and Waltz: Allegro, Tempo di valse
No. 18 Scène: Allegro, Allegro giusto
No. 19 Grand Pas de six.
:I. Intrada (or Entrée): Moderato assai
:II. Variation 1: Allegro
:III. Variation 2: Andante con moto
:IV. Variation 3: Moderato
:V. Variation 4: Allegro
:VI. Variation 5: Moderato, Allegro semplice
:VII. Grand Coda: Allegro molto
  • Appendix I: Pas de deux for Mme. Anna Sobeshchanskaya fashioned from the original music by Léon Minkus (AKA the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux)
No. 20 Hungarian Dance: Czardas – Moderato assai, Allegro moderato, Vivace
  • Appendix II: Russian Dance for Mlle. Pelageya Karpakova: Moderato, Andante semplice, Allegro vivo, Presto
No. 21 Spanish Dance: Allegro non troppo (Tempo di bolero)
No. 22 Neopolitan/Venetian Dance: Allegro moderato, Andantino quasi moderato, Presto
No. 23 Mazurka: Tempo di mazurka
No. 24 Scène: Allegro, Tempo di valse, Allegro vivo

Act IV

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



  • The Guangzhoumarker Acrobatic Troupe of China has made an acrobatic version of the ballet. It is widely popular, and is on tour around the world. One of the most breathtaking moves is of Odette doing a pirouette on top of Siegfried's head, without any supports. Contains Tchaikovsky's music.


  • Swan Lake (1981): A feature-length anime produced by the Japanese company Toei Animation and directed by Koro Yabuki. The adaptation uses Tchaikovsky's score and remains relatively faithful to the story. Two separate English dubs were made, one featuring regular voice actors, and one using celebrities as the main principals (Pam Dawber as Odette, Christopher Atkins as Siegfried, Kay Lenz as Odille, and David Hemmings as Rothbart). The second dub aired on The Disney Channel in the early 1990s. It is presently distributed in France and the United Kingdom by Rouge Citron Production.
  • The Swan Princess, (1994) a popular Nest Entertainment film, based on the Swan Lake story, stays fairly close to the original story, apart from the addition of loyal sidekicks Puffin, Speed, and Jean-Bob, and the fact that Prince Siegfried becomes Prince Derek. The Swan Princess has two sequels, The Swan Princess II: Escape from Castle Mountain and The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom. Features none of Tchaikovsky's music.
  • Barbie of Swan Lake (2003): A direct-to-video children's movie featuring motion capture from the New York City Ballet. Some character's names do not correspond with those in the ballet.
  • Princess Tutu (2003) an anime, alludes frequently to Swan Lake. The heroine, "Ahiru" is described by other characters as the "white swan" (Odette) while her rival, "Rue", is called a "black swan" (Odile). Furthermore, the name of the Prince (revealed at the end of the series) is Siegfried, paralleling the prince of Swan Lake. Episode 13 of the series is entitled Swan Lake ~Schwanensee~ and the score prominently features selections of Tchaikovsky's music.
  • Disney wanted to make an animated version of the ballet, but the film was rejected.
  • 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 (voiced by Ryo Hirohashi) plays Princess Odette, with characters Leon Oswald (voiced by Takahiro Sakurai) as Prince Siegfried and May Wong (voiced by Mai Nakahara) as Odile.


  • The Black Swan (1999): A fantasy novel written by Mercedes Lackey that re-imagines the original story and focuses heavily on Odile. Von Rothbart's daughter is a sorceress in her own right who comes to sympathize with Odette.
  • Swan Lake (1989): 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.


  • Odette – The Dark Side of Swan Lake, a musical written by Alexander S. Bermange and Murray Woodfield, was staged at the Bridewell Theatre, London in October 2007.
  • Radio City Christmas SpectacularThe Rockettes do a short homage to Swan Lake during the performance of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Rock and Dance Version), with the line "Seven Swans A-Swimming."


  • In the Japanese tokusatsu show Kamen Rider Den-O, the main protagonist has the ability to take different forms, based on the imagin that possess him. One of the imagin, known as Sieg, is analogous to the legend of Swan Lake, as it acts very princely when possessing Ryoutarou. Its Den-O form, known as the Wing Form, possesses a swan motif on the face plate. The henshin also appears as if a swan alighted on Den-O's mask.
  • In Episode 213 of The Muppet Show, Rudolf Nureyev performs "Swine Lake" with a giant ballerina pig.





  1. such as The White Duck collected by Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki
  2. Der geraubte Schleier at Projekt Gutenberg-DE
  3. Repertory Index - New York City Ballet
  4. interview, David McAllister and Graeme Murphy, magazine, July, 2005
  5. The correspondence is drawn from, which describes a four-act play. Drigo's version of the ballet is in three acts.
  6. Anime Swan Lake

External links


Video recordings of the ballet:


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