Despite many noteworthy titles in ballet heritage, only one has made it into the broad public awareness as the synonym for classical dance: Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
This colourful and moving story about the love of the Prince and the gentle Odette, who was turned into a swan by the evil Redbeard, has achieved immortality thanks to the overwhelming invention of the composer, and also the surviving choreographed passages of Petipa and Ivanov.
Since the original version, each new generation of ballet soloists and ensembles takes on this exciting challenge, in order to present the ultimate brilliance in dance.
The Prague State Opera's production respects the original version of the work and its sublime fairy-tale spirit, whilst meeting the expectations of those who admire the finest ballet techniques.
Act I begins under the exquisite setting of the royal court where the Prince is in a celebratory mood for his 21st birthday ball. The townspeople and neighbouring Royal families join in the celebrations, wearing vibrant outfits and performing dances in honour of the Prince’s birthday. When the Queen’s arrival is announced, she gracefully approaches her son and presents him with a magnificent crossbow. As the celebrations continue, the Queen informs the Prince that he must now choose a bride before the Royal Ball the next evening. Various young girls are presented to the Prince when the celebrations resume. Pressured to choose a bride, the Prince and his fellow hunters run to the forest after noticing a flock of swans flying overhead.
In his pursuit of them, he breaks away from his friends and finds himself alone with the swans at an enchanted lake. He watches their elegant dances, led by the most beautiful swan of them all who wears a crown upon her head. Enthralled by the Swan Queen, the Prince dismisses his friends so he can be left alone to watch the swans. The Swan Queen turns into the beautiful maiden, Odette, when evening falls and the Prince is further enamoured with her. Odette reveals that a wicked sorcerer has cursed her and her friends to live their days as swans. The enchanted lake has been formed by the tears of their parents, and the curse can only be broken if a pure young man pledges his love to her and they marry.
They two share a romantic dance and embrace, but before the Prince can profess his love for her, Rothbart appears and takes Odette away, ordering the rest of the swans to dance in order to stop the Prince from giving chase. Alone by the lake, the Prince vows to defeat Rothbart and free Odette from the spell, but Rothbart has a trick up his sleeve: his daughter, Odile.
Odile is identical to Odette in every single aspect except that she wears black against Odette’s innocent white. The next evening, at the Royal Ball, the Prince has danced with several girls under his mother’s request, but he cannot get Odette out of his mind. When trumpeters announce Rothbart’s arrival, he has Odile disguised as Odette on his arm. The Prince is ecstatic and captivated by Odile’s presence, not realising her true identity. As the two share a dance, the real Odette watches from a nearby window. Enchanted by Odile, the Prince pledges his eternal love for her, prompting the real Odette to flee. When the Prince realises his mistake, he runs into the forest to find Odette, leaving the Royal Court in gloom.
At the lake, Odette is heartbroken and consoled by her fellow swans. When the Prince arrives to explain Rothbart and Odile’s trick, Odette eventually forgives him. However, Rothbart and Odile appear at the lake and break the Prince and Odette apart. Rothbart insists the Prince keeps to his promise to marry Odile as Odette has been cursed to remain as swan forever. As the Prince and Rothbart fight, Odette jumps into the lake in despair, quickly followed by the Prince, where they drown.
Rothbart’s curse is broken by this sacrificial act of love, and the remaining swans turn back into girls, where they defeat Rothbart and Odile. Finally freed from the spell, the girls watch as the Prince and Odette are eternally united in the afterlife.