Virtual Museum

Virtual Museum

Swan Lake

About the Ballet

Since its premiere in Moscow in 1877, Swan Lake has remained one of the most enduring, moving and irreplaceable works in the classical ballet repertoire. Crystallized for many by the iconic, seemingly innocent fairy tale image of the young Siegfried’s love for the white swan Odette, the work traverses worlds both mythic and real. The extraordinary range of emotional and psychological expression is bound together in Tchaikovsky’s rapturous, ethereal score. First choreographed by Julius Wenzerl Reinsinger, a German who was Ballet Master at the Bolshoi theatre, to only part of Tchaikovky’s score, the ballet was not a critical success. Despite Reinsinger’s failure, the story continued to inspire choreographers including Lev Ivanov who re-interpreted the first lakeside scene, revolutionizing Russian ballet by incorporating the Corps de Ballet as an integral part of the drama. Ivanov’s re-interpretation was so successful that Marius Petipa was invited by the director of the Imperial Theatres to mount a new full-length production, which he completed with the help of his assistant Lev Ivanov. The final product from Petipa and Ivanov is the basis of all modern productions. Swan Lake is now considered a masterpiece and, like all great works, constantly invites new interpretations as the challenge of Tchaikovksy’s music and a fascination with this tale have proven irresistible to 20th century choreographers.

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Ballet Notes

Get more insight into the production - Ballet Notes are detailed guides to the company's dynamic repertoire. Read the synopsis and articles and view more photos in the Swan Lake Ballet Notes.

Read the 2010 Ballet Notes

Read the 2013 Ballet Notes

Production Chronology 

Swan Lake, Act II
Premiere date: November 17, 1953
Choreography: Marius Petipa/Lev Ivanov 
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Set and Costume Design: Kay Ambrose

Swan Lake 
Premiere date: January 19, 1955
Choreography: Marius Petipa/Lev Ivanov, produced by Celia Franca
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Set and Costume Design: Kay Ambrose

Swan Lake  
Premiere date: March 27, 1967
Choreography: Erik Bruhn, after Marius Petipa/Lev Ivanov
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Set and Costume Design: Desmond Heeley
Lighting Design: Wallace Russell

Swan Lake (revival) 
Premiere date: August 6, 1979
Choreography: Erik Bruhn, after Marius Petipa/Lev Ivanov
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Set and Costume Design: Desmond Heeley
Lighting Design: Sholem Dolgoy (1979); Robert Thomson (1985)

Swan Lake  
Premiere date: May 5, 1999
Choreography: James Kudelka
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Set and Costume Design: Santo Loquasto
Lighting Design: Robert Thomson

Swan Lake is made possible by generous financial support from production underwriters Sandra & Jim Pitblado and Margaret & Jim Fleck.

Top image credit: The National Ballet of Canada tutus on display. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.