Ballet in two acts - 1995

Choreography Ray Barra, Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov · Composer Peter I. Tschaikowsky

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  • Ensemble of the Bayerisches Staatsballett
  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester
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Swan Lake is both a ballet classic and ballet mystery par excellence in equal measure. Although there is no “original version” and vis-à-vis the delivery we cannot speak of any fixed choreographic text or a clear dramaturgical structure, the St. Petersburg production by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov (1895) is the one that most choreographers orient themselves on, and which continues to influence new productions to this very day. The performances of a group of dancers in tutus, swan feathers and pointe shoes are inseparably interwoven with practically every version of Swan Lake.

Ray Barra kept Lev Ivanov’s magnificent choreographic delivery in his version for the Bayerisches Staatsballett, which he created in 1994/95. His composition of the second act became a milestone of ballet history and the precursor of all that we call abstract or concertante ballet in the 20th century. Decisive for Barra was the psychological starting situation, which he presented in the tradition of John Cranko and Rudolf Nureyev. Prince Siegfried is an unstable young man, who has no intention of complying with the political and social demands his position makes of him. He escapes to dream worlds where the swans, the beloved Odette, her evil double Odile and the sorcerer Rothbart become real figures for him, who ultimately cause his death.

The plot

At a royal court, Prussian in style, second half of the 19th century. Prince Siegfried is soon to succeed to the throne, and must therefore marry. His mother, the Queen, who has always determined the course of his life and what is best for her son and the royal family, has chosen a beautiful bride for Siegfried from among the bountiful selection of relatives. Siegfried, an emotional dreamer of a young man, who would prefer to dedicate his time to literature than to politics, has been battling a crisis for some time, struggles with his conflicting feelings, torn to and fro between performing duty and preference. He cannot and will not endure any longer the growing pressure the demands of his mother and his position make on him. Increasingly he withdraws from reality and immerses himself in fantasies peopled with literary and fairy tale figures.


The prince has dreamed himself into the world of the legend of the “Swan Lake”. Horrified, he must look on as Von Rothbart the sorcerer casts a spell on a young girl, Odette, turning her into a swan.

1st Act

The day of the engagement, to be opulently celebrated at court, has arrived. A garden party is held in the morning in the castle’s park. Siegfried’s friends have arrived, a cheerful, carefree atmosphere reigns – they dance, laugh, converse. Siegfried alone sits immersed in thought. His friends – and Benno in particular – try to cheer him up and distract him. Into the middle of the young people’s garden party enters the Queen with her entourage and high-ranking guests from all Europe, here to attend the evening ball.

Charlotte, Siegfried’s intended, is lead in by the Queen. When Siegfried signals to his mother that he is not happy with her choice, the Queen once again reinforces her unrelenting will to seal this engagement. With the very first dance Siegfried lets Charlotte know she cannot win his heart. The Prince, deeply affectedly by his mother’s appearance, sinks into depression, his thoughts confused.

Von Rothbart the sorcerer leads him to the shore of a lake, where Odette, the Swan Queen, appears to him with her entourage. Odette connotes to him that only love can free her of her imprisonment as a swan. Siegfried falls in love with her and vows his eternal fidelity to her.

2nd Act

The members of the court, led by Queen Mother, and relatives from all Europe are at the ball to celebrate Prince Siegfried’s engagement. The guests present dances from their homelands. Finally, when all but Siegfried at table, a beautiful woman clad in black appears to him, Odile, who enters the hall with her companions and an imperious man at her side. In Siegfried’s delirium she becomes a black swam with Odette’s features and characteristics.

He follows Odile in a seductive dance, swears loyalty to her and in that very moment recognises he has betrayed and lost Odette forever.

At the lake the crying Odette awaits her unfaithful beloved with her companions. Once again Siegfried desperately declares his love and begs Odette for forgiveness. She forgives him, but all is already lost. With his magical storms Von Rothbart draws Odette away from Siegfried’s grasp. Siegfried follows the illusion, and drowns in the lake.
Queen Mother finds her dead son. She knows not what drove him into the water, or the story he found death in.

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