Choreography John Neumeier · Composer Peter I. Tschaikowsky

Thursday, 28. April 2011
07:00 pm – 10:15 pm

Duration est. 3 hours 15 minutes · 1. Akt (est. 07:00 pm - 08:00 pm ) · Interval (est. 08:00 pm - 08:10 pm ) · 2. Akt (est. 08:10 pm - 08:45 pm ) · Interval (est. 08:45 pm - 09:10 pm ) · 3. Akt (est. 09:10 pm - 10:00 pm )

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Michael Schmidtsdorff
John Neumeier
Peter I. Tschaikowsky
Set Design
Jürgen Rose

Der König
Marlon Dino
Prinzessin Natalia
Lucia Lacarra
Daria Sukhorukova
Prinzessin Claire
Ilana Werner
Graf Alexander
Lukáš Slavický
Prinz Siegfried
Cyril Pierre
Séverine Ferrolier
Prinz Leopold
Cyril Pierre
  • Ensemble of the Bayerisches Staatsballett
  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester
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The king escapes into the theatrical reality of this Swan Lake performance, in which he seeks deliverance from his existential agonies. The unfinished walls of the castle on Herrenchiemsee are rediscovered, an image of his unquenchable yearning for completion, while concurrently serving as his prison. None of the women courting him can offer him fulfillment; death and the constantly present man in the shadows become one in the breathtaking final scene, which captures the existential-tragic dimension of the longing for human love in all its devastating inattainability.

The choreographer and director of the Hamburg Ballet, John Neumeier, drew his inspiration for the ballet drama Illusions – Like Swan Lake from the life and tribulations of King Ludwig II. Into this story, he interwove the meticulous reconstruction of a ballet-historical point of culmination, the second act of Swan Lake in the choreography by Lev Ivanov and the "Black Swan Pas de deux" in which the significant choreographic contribution of Marius Petipa to the definitive St. Petersburg version of Swan Lake is rescued.


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A King is declared insane during a masked ball, and imprisoned. An unfinished room in one of his own palaces serves as his prison. Left alone, he senses the fleeting presence of another being, the Man in the Shadows. The vision disappears. Exhausted, he collapses next to the model of one of his extravagant palaces.

First Remembrance:
The Foundation-Stone Celebration
Artisans and the peasant population are celebrating their work on one of the King’s new Palace. The King is accompanied by his confidante, Count Alexander, and takes part in the festivities, joining the peasants in their games and tests of strength. The Queen Mother arrives, accompanied by Prince Leopold and other members of the court, Princess Natalia the King’s fiancée, and Princess Claire to whom Count Alexander is engaged. A quadrille is arranged and the festivities reach their climax with a polonaise, led by the Queen Mother and her escort Prince Leopold. Lost in his own thoughts, the King draws away from the general merriment and remains alone. Princess Natalia finds him but he refuses her company. The Man in the Shadows is again present.

In his prison the King once again stumbles upon one of the objects stored in the unfinished room, draws back its dust cover and discovers it to be a model of the stage set for the ballet “Swan Lake”.

Second Remembrance:
A Private Performance of “Swan Lake”
The ballet is danced for the King alone. It is the story of Princess Odette who was transformed into a swan by the magician Rotbart and may only resume her original human shape for a short period at midnight. Prince Siegfried, out hunting for swans one night, observes the transformation of the swan princess and falls in love with her. The King, completely fascinated by the ballet, identifies himself with the illusions of the stage and assumes the role of Prince Siegfried. Princess Natalia who has secretly come into the theatre observes the King and is surprised by the intensity and passion in his relationship to the swan-
princess. She departs, deeply disturbed by what she has seen. As the tragic ballet ends the evil Rotbart seems, in the eyes of the King to be transformed into the Man in the Shadows.

Loud march music startles the exhausted King in his cell. Tortured by hallucinations, he imagines that the victory procession of his supposed rival Leopold is parading by beneath his window. He accidentally discovers a painting of his coronation. This sudden confrontation causes him again to lose himself in the past.

Third Remembrance: A Masked Ball
The King recalls the grand “Ball of Nations” with which this very night had begun. He had come costumed as Prince Siegfried. Clowns entertain the guests, and function as master of ceremony by organizing the various sets of the cotillion. Guests in varied national costumes dance. The Queen Mother is in Hungarian dress and leads off the festivities with a Salon-Czardas. With the changing of partners during a waltz Princess Natalia meets the King. She lets her cape slip from her shoulders to reveal a costume patterned after that of the swan-princess. The King is delighted with the illusion and is once again transported to the dream-world of Swan Lake. For the first time a spark of sympathy and understanding unites them unexpectedly. It is midnight, the end of carnival, time to unmask. A clown in black approaches the King, unmasking he reveals himself to be the Man in the Shadows. Torn out of his imagined world, the King and the illusion of a relationship with Natalia-Odette are destroyed. The King seems insane and insults the Queen Mother. State officials arrest him.

The King is asleep. Hearing a knock, he awakens, as if from a nightmare. Princess Natalia, still in her carnival swan-costume, is allowed in for a short visit. After a time, he sends her away. Fantastic visions of “Swan Lake” appear mingling with reality. The King senses the presence of the Man in the Shadows and, turning to him, accepts his destiny.

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Michael Schmidtsdorff was born in Hamburg. He studied conducting in his hometown and in Vienna. After being an assistance conductor at the Hamburgische Staatsoper and the Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar he became leading conductor and assistant musical director at the Theater Lüneburg.

In 1998, he conducted at the Hamburg Ballett John Neumeier for the first time and traveled around the world with the company over the years. Since 2002, he worked with the Berliner Staatsballett, the Ballet de l'Opéra Paris, the Ballett der Sächsischen Staatsoper Dresden, the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen and the ballet of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo (together with the Martha Graham Dance Company New York in 2015). Further guest performances led him to St. Petersburg, Japan, San Francisco, Muscat (Oman) and to Cagliari.

Since 2005, Michael Schmidtsdorff regularly conducts performances with the Bayerisches Staatsballett. In February 2017 he accompanied the guest performance of the Bayerisches Staatsballett to Hong Kong.

Repertoire with the Bayerischen Staatsballett

The Lady of the Camellias (F. Chopin/J. Neumeier)
Swan Lake (P. Tschaikowsky /P. Bart/M. Petipa)
Brahms-Schönberg Quartett (G. Balanchine)
Große Fuge (L. van Beethoven / H. van Manen)
Le Corsaire (L. Minkus / M. Petipa / I. Liška)
Raymonda (A. Glasunow / M. Petipa / R. Barra)
Onegin (P. Tschaikowsky / J. Cranko)
Illusions – like Swan Lake (P. Tschaikowsky/J. Neumeier)
Giselle (A. Adam/M. Ek)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (F. Mendelssohn Bartholdy/J. Neumeier)
Sinfonie in C / in the Night / Adam is (G. Bizet/F. Chopin/G. Balanchine/ J. Robbins/ A. Barton)
La Bayadère (L. Minkus/M. Petipa/P. Bart)
Paquita (A. Ratmansky/ M. Petipa)
Terpsichore Gala IX & X (The World of the Ballets Russes, 20th anniversary season of the Staatsballetts)

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