Swan Lake bears the distinction of being Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's first ballet, composed in 1875.
Tchaikovsky was commissioned by the director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres to create the music for the ballet, guided only by a basic outline that choreographer Julius Reisinger provided for what each dance required. Swan Lake made its debut at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1875, but, initially, the piece was not well received. In an 1895 revival of the ballet, Marius Petipa, assisted by Lev Ivanov, revised Julius Reisinger's choreography for St. Petersburg audiences, along with some minor musical changes, and this is the version that has proved most popular. In 1940, this re-worked version made its U.S. debut, performed by the San Francisco Ballet.
Swan Lake is also notable for its libretto, which is unattributed to a single writer. There are various theories as to the creator of the original, but little evidence. The tale of a young woman cursed to live as a swan, and the prince who tries to save her, probably found its source material in folktales from Russia and Germany, including “The White Duck” and “The Stolen Veil.” The first published libretto is so at odds with the music at certain places, it is suspected to be the work of journalists, who attended rehearsals for the opera and ballet to report on them for readers.
The Wichita Grand Opera presents the Petipa interpretation of Swan Lake, performed by the Russian National Ballet Theatre, on January 25th at Century II.