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Swan Lake (Russian: Лебединое Озеро, Lebedinoye Ozero, Swan Lake) is a ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky presented in either four Acts, four Scenes (primarily outside Russia and Eastern Europe) or three Acts, four Scenes (primarily in Russia and Eastern Europe). It was originally choreographed by Julius Reisinger to the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (opus 20). First presented as The Lake of the Swans by the Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre on February 20/March 4, 1877 (Julian/Gregorian calendar dates) in Moscow. Although the ballet is presented in many different versions, most ballet companies base their stagings both choreographically and musically on the revival of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, staged for the Imperial Ballet, first presented January 15, 1895 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. For this revival, Tchaikovsky's score was revised by the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre's kapellmeister Riccardo Drigo
The origins of the ballet Swan Lake are rather obscured, since very few records concerning the first production of the work have survived. The most authoritative, though speculative, theory suggests that the libretto was written by Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres during the time that the ballet was originally produced.
Begichev commissioned the score of Swan Lake from Tchaikovsky in 1875 for a rather modest fee of 800 rubles, and soon Begichev began to choose artists that would participate in the creation of the ballet. The choreographer assigned to the production was the Czech Julius Reisinger (1827-1892), who had been engaged as balletmaster to the Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre (today known as the Bolshoi Ballet) since 1873.
Swan Lake was the first ballet set to the score of a symphonic composer. At this time, scores for ballets were almost always written by composers known as "specialists" - composers who were highly skilled at scoring the light, decorative, melodious, and rhythmically clear music that was at that time in vogue for ballet. Tchaikovsky studied the music of these "specialists" before setting to work on Swan Lake.
Tchaikovsky drew on previous compositions in for his Swan Lake score. He made use of material from The Voyevoda, an opera that he had abandoned in 1868, in Swan Lake's Grand Adagio (aka the Love Duet), Waltz of the Prospective Fiancées, and the Entr'acte of the fourth scene. According to Tchaikovsky's nephew, Tchaikovsky originally created the famous Swan's Theme for a little ballet called The Lake of the Swans he had written at his home for the amusement of his relatives.
It is not known what sort of collaborative processes were involved between Tchaikovsky and Reisinger. Tchaikovsky likely had some form of instruction in composing Swan Lake, as he had to know what sort of dances would be required. But unlike the instructions that Tchaikovsky received for the scores of The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, no such written instruction is known to have survived.
By April of 1876 the score was complete, and rehearsals began. Soon Reisinger began setting certain numbers aside that he dubbed "unsuitable for ballet." Reisinger even began choreographing dances to other composers' music, but Tchaikovsky protested, and his pieces were reinstated.Source(s): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swan_Lake