Prince Siegfried chances upon a flock of swans while out hunting. When one of the swans turns into a beautiful woman, Odette, he is enraptured. But she is under a spell that holds her captive, allowing her to regain her human form only at night.
The evil spirit Von Rothbart, arbiter of Odette's curse, disguises his daughter Odile as Odette to trick Siegfried into breaking his vow of love. Fooled, Siegfried declares his love for Odile, and so dooms Odette to suffer under the curse forever. Swan Lake was Tchaikovsky's first score for the ballet.
Given its status today as arguably the best-loved and most admired of all classical ballets, it is perhaps surprising that at its premiere in 1877 Swan Lake was poorly received. It is thanks to the 1895 production by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that Swan Lake has become part of not only ballet consciousness but also wider popular culture. That success is secured not only by the sublime, symphonic sweep of Tchaikovsky's score but also by the striking choreographic contrasts between Petipa's royal palace scenes and the lyric lakeside scenes created by Ivanov.
Swan Lake has had a special role in the repertory of The Royal Ballet since 1934. Since then there has been a succession of productions, the most recent of which was overseen by Anthony Dowell. This 2019 Season sees a new production with additional choreography by ROH Artist-in-Residence Liam Scarlett.
Scarlett, while remaining faithful to the Petipa-Ivanov text, will bring fresh eyes to the staging of this classic ballet, in collaboration with his long-term designer John Macfarlane. This beautifully produced new Royal Ballet branded book with photographs by Bill Cooper is a collection of exclusive photographs which shines the spotlight on Swan Lake. These exquisite photos feature some of the finest dancers on stage today and give an exclusive insight into the Royal Ballet's work.