What Is the Story of “Swan Lake” About?

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The story of Swan Lake is a well-known classic story of romance with a tragic ending. It has been performed eloquently in ballet and in music.

The Love Story The main characters in “Swan Lake” are a prince and princess who fall in love and vow to spend the rest of their lives together. The story unfolds when the Prince who is named Siegfried goes hunting and comes across a graceful swan. Due to an evil curse, most of the maidens in the village are doomed to be swans except for a few hours each day when they are humans. Before the Prince is able to shoot the swan it turns into a lovely woman named Odette. She confides in him that she is one of the maidens who is under the evil sorcerer’s spell and must be saved by a virgin prince who promises to be faithful to her forever. Siegfried falls in love instantly and invites her to join him at a gala at his castle that night. It is there that they plan to be married and end the spell. At the gala’s reception, the Prince is tricked into picking a bride that he thinks is Odette, but is really the sorcerer’s evil daughter. Once the mistake is realized, the Prince is deeply saddened and begs for forgiveness. As fate would have it, the Princess forgives him and they decide to throw themselves into a lake to be together eternally in death.

The Ballet

“Swan Lake” is an elegant ballet that was composed in 1877 by Tchaikovsky. The ballet was mildly received at the time, but it’s said to be the most often performed ballet today. There are variations to the ballet but Tchaikovsky’s version remains true today in most of the performances. This truly beautiful ballet typically has four acts to tell the story in dance form, but it’s sometimes performed with only one act. It’s a popular ballet that’s performed in New York, Australia, San Diego, Russia and in many cities around the world drawing large audiences who love the tragic love story. The choreography is skillfully mastered with the Black Swan pas de deux being a favorite scene. The setting for the ballet is the late 19th century, although it was written during the Medieval Period. The costumes include those like swans, even those in dark black colors, and others in human form with formal gala attire. Scenery includes the romantic lake where the two meet, a fancy ballroom at the castle and the lake again on a dark, tragic night.

The Music The Russian composer Tchaikovsky’s music is melodic at times and powerful at others. Noted music includes Waltz in Act I and Dance in the Cygnets. Ballet dancers move to the rhythm of the cadence like elegant swans floating in a lake. The last act of the ballet was written to only have about 15 minutes of music. Since it’s a climatic part of the ballet, a short act creates more emotion and definition for a grand finale.