The music for the ballet “Lake of Swans” (this was its original name), was ordered to be composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky in spring of 1875. This order came from Vladimir Begichev, a trustee of Imperial theatres in Moscow during production at the Opera “Guardsmen.”
This was Tchaikovsy’s second take on ballet, after its first attempt resulted in nothing. Even this time, many of his colleagues were sceptical about this proposition as music for ballet was contemporary work that did not have a great image especially for a young composer.
First ever poster for the Premier
The history of the ballet is mainly described by researchers, whose ideas are based on reading through letters and recollections of the ones involved in the production. So in the summer of 1875, Pyotr mentioned in a letter that he partly took this job on because of lack of money and partly because he always wanted to try himself in this genre. Moscow theatres offer him a pretty decent at the time reward of 800 rubles.
In February 1876 in a letter to his brother Modest, he wrote that he intends to shortly finish the ballet composition and that everyone in the theatre world is excited about music. He orchestrates his work and actively is involved in the staging process which was complete with the premier at Bolshoi Theatre on 20 February 1877.
The premier was never a success. The main aspect in the failure was the inexperience of of the choreographer Julius Reisinger, whose name in fact is still remembered with this failure.
The critics wrote that based on the dancing of the Swan Lake, this must be perhaps the most boring and poor ballet that is currently presented in Russia. It is worth noting that the ballet in troupe in those days was not the best by its standard. Furthermore, the first ever soloist to perform the role of Odette was Polina Karpova. Although, a promising dancer she was replaced after the third performance by Anna Sobechanskaya who was a favourite among the Moscow audience. The critics continued to be divided, some state the lack of melody and others that it was the best ballet they ever saw. Although, details stayed in history, everyone is remembers it a as failure.
The performance played at the theatre for 8 years. It was freshened up a few times. It is fair to say that there was no single one individual who can be put forward as the creator of this ballet. It is more a case of collective work between all parties, from choreographer to the initiator Vladimir Begichev. There was never a name printed on the posters which leaves it up to you to decide.
Follow this link to find the nearest theatre where Swan Lake Ballet will be performing.