Historic Discoveries for Swan Lake

Swan Lake premiered at the Bolshoi Ballet in 1877, but since then it's undergone many variations and alterations. Dancers perform everything from New York City Ballet's stripped-down two-act version to Christopher Wheeldon's Degas-esque fantasy. And while each interpretation has its own merit and relationship with Tchaikovsky's score, wouldn't it be cool to know what the original was like?

Luckily, for dance #nerdz everywhere, there's been a major discovery at the Bolshoi: The New York Times reports that "a cache of materials uncovered during the recent renovation of the Bolshoi Theater [...] helps answer lingering questions about the first Swan Lake." SO COOL.

(Ekaterina Shipulina, photo by Damir Yusupov)

The classical production we're all familiar with is based on a 1895 staging by Marius Petipa, and it relied on a score that was rearranged from Tchaikovsky's original. It's hard to imagine the super-classical version of the ballet sounding or looking any different, but Lydia Geiten, the ballerina cast as the original lead, refused the part saying that the score was too boring (!). I guess generations of tinkering have spiced things up, because I can't imagine there's a bunhead out there who doesn't want to dance Odette/Odile—at least partly due to the beauty of the music.

Since Alexei Ratmansky's rebuild of The Sleeping Beauty was smashingly successful for American Ballet Theatre, maybe now is a great time to start piecing together notes on the original costumes and musical arrangements for Swan Lake. I know I would LOVE to see it.

 

 

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