Swan Lake Marks 140th Anniversary with National Ballet of Canada Tonight
This year marks the 140th anniversary of Swan Lake, opening tonight at the National Ballet of Canada and continuing through June 25.
One of the most enduring examples of classical ballet, Swan Lake received its world premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1877, in a version choreographed by Julius Reisinger and set to music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Although the origins of the ballet's story are uncertain, it most likely derived from German folk tale sources. This first version of the ballet was, apart from the music, not well received by the public or critics, although it continued to be performed until 1883.
It was not until 20 years after the first staging of the ballet that a new production, using a slightly re-worked version of the original Tchaikovsky score and a new storyline by Tchaikovsky's brother, Modest, as well as new choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, opened at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. Ivanov's contribution to the ballet is seen most clearly in the ballet's lakeside scenes, whereas Petipa's choreography (for instance, the famous showpiece of the 32 fouettés) is most pronounced in the material set at court. This later version of Swan Lake was immediately popular and it remains the basis of most adaptations of the ballet that are performed today the world over.
Swan Lake and The National Ballet of Canada
Although parts of the ballet had been performed earlier, it wasn't until 1955 that The National Ballet of Canada performed a complete Swan Lake, in a version staged by company founder Celia Franca. This remained the version the company performed until 1967, when it gave the world premiere of Erik Bruhn's landmark version. The Bruhn Swan Lake would remain unchanged until a new production, redesigned by Desmond Heeley, premiered in 1979.
In 1981, National Ballet toured the Heeley-designed production of Swan Lake to Luxembourg and Germany. The ballet and company were greeted with warmly throughout the tour and this led to Swan Lake becoming one of the National Ballet's most popular touring productions throughout the 1980s and 1990s, headlining the company's tours to such countries as Japan, Korea and the U.S.
The company's current production of Swan Lake, by Canadian choreographer James Kudelka, premiered in 1999 at the Hummingbird Centre (now the Sony Centre) in Toronto.