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29 June 2021 (Tue), 19:00 Mikhailovsky Classical Ballet and Opera Theatre (established 1833) - Classical Ballet Pyotr Tchaikovsky "Swan Lake" (ballet in four acts)

Running time: 3 hours (till 22:00)

The performance has 2 intermissions

Schedule for Pyotr Tchaikovsky "Swan Lake" (ballet in four acts) 2021-2022

Composer: Peter Tchaikovsky
Lighting Designer: Damir Ismagilov
Revival Designer: Vyacheslav Okunev
Choreography: Marius Petipa
Choreography: Lev Ivanov
Choreography: Alexander Gorsky
Set Designer: Simon Virsaladze
Libretto: Vladimir Begichev
Staging: Mikhail Messerer

Orchestra: Mikhailovsky Symphony Orchestra
Ballet company: Mikhailovsky Ballet

Classical Ballet in 4 acts

World premiere: 27 February 1877, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, Russia
Premiere of this production: 15 September 2009, Mikhailovsky theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

Swan Lake is a ballet that has become has become a symbol of Russian art itself. The version of the famous ballet cannot be seen anywhere else in Moscow or St. Petersburg: the Mikhailovsky Theatre’s Swan Lake is the legendary ’Old Moscow’ production by Alexander Gorsky and Asaf Messerer. For many years it was considered in Moscow to be the standard production, and now it has been lovingly restored by Mikhail Messerer, Ballet Master in Chief of the Theatre. 

Swan Lake is a special title in the ballet repertory. We were discussing which version to choose for our theatre and turned our attention to the production by Alexander Gorsky and Asaf Messerer. According to ballet historians, the historical London Tour of the Bolshoi Theatre in 1956 could be compared to Diaghilev’s Russian Seasons in the mission of establishing the priority of Russian ballet around the world. It was during the 1956 tour that the version of Swan Lake received rave critical reviews. The appearance of Mikhail Messerer at the Mikhailovsky Theatre made it possible to revive the wonderful production here’, General Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre Vladimir Kekhman comments.

‘Our major concern was to avoid repeating the brilliant production by Konstantin Sergeyev, which occupies such an important place in the repertory of our great elder sibling — the Mariinsky Ballet. A hundred years ago, a remarkable choreographer from St. Petersburg (who was then just starting his career as a ballet master) named Alexander Gorsky was transferring the production of Swan Lake by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa to the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. And while basing it on the gracious choreography of the original, transformed the ballet and staged it in his own way. The epoch of Alexander Gorsky saw the next phase in the evolution of dance following the balletic classicism of Petipa and Ivanov. Gorsky was influenced by contemporary art; he was attracted by the innovative methods of the stage direction of Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and the new style of acting it involved. By the way, Nemirovich-Danchenko participated in a production of Swan Lake by Gorsky.

My approach to the production was quite careful, as I adore the version of 1956, but I admit that my contribution, perhaps, modernizes the performance, brings it up-to-date. My alterations in the ballet are minor. They are mostly based on my conversations with Asaf Messerer in 1990. At the time we were talking about possible changes to the production provided he had a chance to stage it once again. In 1956, the sets for the production were designed by the fabulous artist Simon Virsaladze. The same design is being used now: both for the sets and for the costumes. To my mind, the production corresponds to modern society: everybody wants a happy end today, and our Swan Lake will provide it’, Mikhail Messerer says.

“Swan Lake”

It is difficult to understand these days how it could have happened that the first show of the “Lake” in 1877, in Moscow’s Bolshoi, was a flop, and that it took many years for the ballet to achieve its worldwide cult status. The composer, Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, never lived to see the ultimate success of his creation.

The story begins in 1875, when Bolshoi commissions a ballet score from the young but already famous composer. It was not yet customary practice –despite Tchaikovsky fame and previous successes, which included four symphonies, the now famous Piano Concerto and “Eugene Onegin” opera, the Imperial Theatres of the time would normally employ the composers on Imperial payroll, such as Cesare Pugni, Ludwig Minkus, and Riccardo Drigo. Keeping that in mind, Tchaikovsky did not embark on the course of a revolution in the Russian ballet, and studied the classic ballet scores assiduously, planning to produce a score that would be in tune with the established tradition but at the same time would sound new and interesting. The task of composition occupied him from May 1875 to April 1876. The story was a knightly fairy tale, and historians still debate the literary origins –some opt for Heine, some for Musaeus, a German fairy-tale writer, some for Russian folklore fairy tales, some even for Pushkin.

The first show took place on February 20, 1877, and was a flop. The critics reviled the chief choreographer, Wentsel Reisinger, and were short on praise for Polina (Pelageya) Karpakova, the first interpreter of the main female part. The failure of the first show was detrimental for the immediate reputation of the ballet itself, and for quite some time nobody dared to stage it again.

The situation changed after Tchaikovsky’s death. In 1893, Mariinka decided to revive the “Swan Lake”. A new version of the libretto and the music was to be produced by Modest Tchaikovsky, the composer’s brother, Ivan Vsevolzhsky, the director of the Imperial Theatres himself, and by Riccardo Drigo. The latter used the original music as a source material for a completely new score. The choreography was supervised by Marius Petipa and his pupil Lev Ivanov. The tradition claims that while Petipa was the father of the unique choreography of the new ballet, its truly Russian singing character is there thanks to Ivanov. The lake and swan scenes, famous for their perfection, are undoubtedly his alone. It was Ivanov who came up with the idea of enchanted ladies with their criss-crossed arms and heads tilted to one side, which every spectator immediately recognized for birds that sit with their wings folded. The very magical world of the swan lake was created by Ivanov. Petipa’s are the scenes of courtly dances and festivities and their intricate lace of waltzes and various dances – Spanish, Hungarian, Polish. Petipa also created an antipode for Ivanov’s White Queen of Swans –its black twin Odile, and its beautiful black pas-de-deux of the second act.

It was this particular stage version that came to be admired as the pinnacle of Russian ballet. This production, as none other, was the perfect setting for many famous dancers to showcase their art. The Swan Lake is a unique and perfect creation, and despite the changing musical and dancing fashions, the performance of Odette and Odile parts is still considered a touchstone for the mettle of any serious dancer. The White Swan is truly a symbol of Russian Ballet, of its beauty and magnificence.


Act I

The garden of the Sovereign Princess’s castle. While the young people disport themselves on the lawn, the jester amuses the guests with his antics and girls dance with their companions. The Princess informs her son Siegfried that at tomorrow’s ball he is to choose a fiancée from among the girls invited to the castle. Siegfried’s heart remains closed to her words, as he hasn’t yet known love. Night falls. The young people depart. Siegfried is overcome by conflicting emotions: he regrets the end of his freewheeling life while, at the same time, dreams of a pure, ideal lov e. But where is this girl to be found? Siegfried is bored by the conversation with his friends. A flock of swans catches Siegfried’s attention and he follows them.

Act II

The swans lead Siegfried to a lake, deep in a dark and wild wood. At the lake, the swans dance in a fairy circle. Siegfried catches sight of a beautiful swan which then turns into a girl. This is Odette, the Queen of Swans. The Evil Genius has placed her and her friends under a spell: the swan maidens can now become girls only at night. Only the love of a young man who has never promised himself to a woman can release them from the spell. Siegfried, full of love for Odette, swears that he will love her and be faithful to her forever. The Evil G enius overhears Siegfried and Odette’s conversation. 
Daybreak. The girls turn back into swans. Siegfried, convinced of his feelings, will save Odette from the Evil Genius.


The ball at the Sovereign Princess’ castle at which Siegfried is to select his fiancée. The guests arrive at the party but Siegfried is nowhere to be seen. The jester begins his amusing dances and the guests start dancing too. Siegfried appears, yet he treats the prospective fiancées icily: he’s thinking only of the beautiful Odette. 
A stranger arrives at the ball. It is the Evil Genius in disguise. He has brought his daughter Odile with him; she is strikingly reminiscent of Odette. The Evil Genius tells her to enchant Siegfried and make him swear eter nal love. The Prince doesn’t recognize the Evil Genius and mistakes Odile for Odette. He declares Odile as his chosen bride. The Evil Genius is triumphant: Siegfried’s vow to Odette has been broken and, as a result, she will die. He points to an image of Odette that appears in the distance and departs with Odile. Siegfried realizes that he has been deceived and rushes in despair to the lake.

Act IV

An ominous night at the lake. A despondent Odette reveals the tragic news about the broken vow. The swan maidens grieve: their hope of freedom is lost. Siegfried appears. He hasn’t broken his promise: it was his Odette, not Odile, who he saw at the castle. It was to her that he swore his undying love. 
The outraged Evil Genius summons a storm against the lovers, lightning flashes. But nothing can overcome the pure love of inseparable Siegfried and Odette. The Evil Genius decides to fight Siegfried himself and dies in the clash. His spells are destroyed. Odette and Siegfried, surrounded by Odette’s friends, watch the sun rise.

Schedule for Pyotr Tchaikovsky "Swan Lake" (ballet in four acts) 2021-2022

Peter Tchaikovsky "Swan Lake"
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