Swan Lake

Directed and Staged by Karen Kain

June 10 – 26, 2022

Swan Lake

Directed and Staged by Karen Kain

June 10 – 26, 2022
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Set to Tchaikovsky’s glittering score, Swan Lake is the epitome of classical ballet, beloved the world over for its lyricism, musicality and brilliant choreography and for a love story that is both symbolic and intimate. Artistic Director Emerita Karen Kain gives renewed emphasis to the emotion and humanity of Swan Lake in a new staging inspired by Erik Bruhn’s landmark version but in her own bold vision. A gesture of love to a company and artform that has been her home for over 50 years.

The Story

One night in a faraway kingdom, the young woman Odette joins her friends at a lakeside clearing that, unbeknownst to them, is the lair of an evil predator, Rothbart, half man and half bird. Rothbart grasps Odette in his enormous wings and casts a spell enslaving her to live by day as a swan, returning to human form only at night. A pledge of true love and fidelity will set her free. But when the kingdom’s eligible royal, Prince Siegfried, falls in love with Odette many years later, Rothbart conjures a spectacular trick to keep them apart – Odile, a ravishing imitation of Odette.

Five Things to Know
  1. 1Odette and her friends are women held in captivity as swans. But at night when the audience sees them – and when Prince Siegfried falls in love with Odette – they are human. There are always swan-like elements to the way they move but the women also show their humanity by supporting one another with gestures of comfort and understanding.
  2. 2The setting has a lush, romantic quality to it, with a gated palace, forest, hunting grounds and enigmatic lakeside. The design features sets and costumes by Gabriela Týlešová, lighting by Bonnie Beecher and projection designs by Sean Nieuwenhuis.
  3. 3Týlešová took care to design the perfect feathers for the 30 swan tutus in the production. Each tutu features more than 120 hand-cut and pleated feathers made from digitally printed fabrics. Týlešová wanted the feathers to provide a visual link with the winged figure of Rothbart.
  4. 4The traditional ball scene where Prince Siegfried is expected to choose a bride is an extravagant masked ball in this version of Swan Lake. Every guest arrives in disguise, including Rothbart, who tricks Siegfried into mistaking Odile for his beloved Odette. Týlešová created some of her most fantastical costumes for this scene.  
  5. 5Many of the choreographic elements that have made Swan Lake such an enduring classical work have been retained but with the addition of new and exciting staging from Karen Kain and choreography from her creative team: Associate Artistic Director Christopher Stowell and Choreographic Associate Robert Binet.
The History of Swan Lake
The Creator

Karen Kain joined The National Ballet of Canada in 1969 and was promoted to Principal Dancer in 1971. Over the course of her dancing career, she collaborated with top choreographers, toured internationally and worked on stage and in film as a guest artist. Karen led the National Ballet as Artistic Director with great success from 2005, until she stepped down in June 2021 and was named Artistic Director Emerita. 

The Composer

The late 19th century Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created some of the most popular works in the classical repertoire, particularly his three full-length scores for ballet: Swan LakeThe Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. His body of work includes full-length operas, symphonies and concertos.


Directed and Staged by:
Karen Kain, C.C., LL.D., D.Litt., O.Ont.

Choreography by:
Karen Kain, Christopher Stowell and Robert Binet after Erik Bruhn, Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake, Opus 20 (1875-76)

Set, Property and Costume Designer:
Gabriela Týlešová

Lighting Designer:
Bonnie Beecher

Projection Designer:
Sean Nieuwenhuis

Design Associate, Wardrobe:
Marjory Fielding

Design Assistant, Wardrobe:
Allie Marshall

Design Associate, Set & Properties:
Joshua Quinlan

Premiere: The National Ballet of Canada, Toronto, Friday, June 10, 2022

Produced and commissioned by The National Ballet of Canada. 

Lead philanthropic support for Swan Lake is provided by The Walter Carsen New Creations Fund, with generous underwriting from Richard M. Ivey, C.C., an anonymous friend of the National Ballet, Susan Scace & Arthur Scace, C.M., Q.C., The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, Nancy Pencer, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., The Lawrence Schafer Foundation, Gretchen Ross & Donald Ross, O.C., Anne-Marie Canning, Anna McCowan Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Tim & Frances Price, The Volunteer Committee of The National Ballet of Canada, Kevin Garland & Roger Garland, C.M. and Aaron & Heather Regent. Additional support provided by The Producers’ Circle.

The Producers’ Circle: Gail & Mark Appel, John & Claudine Bailey, Inger Bartlett & Marshal Stearns, Laura Dinner & Richard Rooney, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, The Thor E. and Nicole Eaton Family Charitable Foundation, Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan, Kevin Garland & Roger Garland, C.M., Ira Gluskin & Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, The William & Nona Heaslip Foundation, Anna McCowan Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Judy Korthals & Peter Irwin, Mona & Harvey Levenstein, Jerry & Joan Lozinski, The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, C.C., Julie Medland, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., The Harry & Lillian Seymour Family Foundation, Gerald Sheff & Shanitha Kachan and The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation.

The National Ballet also acknowledges support for Swan Lake provided by An Anonymous Supporter, Judi Conacher, Sherry and Edward Drew and Julie Medland.

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