Swan Lake - Ballet - Season 22/23 Programming - Opéra national de Paris

  • Ballet

    Swan Lake

    Rudolf Nureyev

    Opéra Bastille - from 10 December 2022 to 01 January 2023

    Julien Benhamou / OnP

See all informations

Swan Lake

Opéra Bastille - from 10 December 2022 to 01 January 2023

Ballet

Swan Lake

Rudolf Nureyev

Opéra Bastille - from 10 December 2022 to 01 January 2023

2h55 with 1 interval

  • Opening night : 10 Dec. 2022 at 19:30

About

In few words:

It is hard to believe that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's first ballet, Swan Lake, created in 1877 for the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, was a failure, so striking is its music's melodic power. It was not until twenty years later - but Tchaikovsky was already dead - that the ballet was brought to the stage in the choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. Almost one hundred years later, Rudolf Nureyev reshuffles the deck by giving his own choreographic interpretation to this impossible story between Prince Siegfried and Odette, a woman transformed into a swan by the sorcerer Rothbart. In creating his version for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1984, Rudolf Nureyev gave greater depth to the psychology of the prince, torn between his duty and his dreams, and illuminated Tchaikovsky's poetic dream with a desperate depth.

CHARACTERS

Siegfried: Young prince in love with Odette, he swears fidelity to her and seeks to save her from her curse. Unfortunately he is deceived by Rothbart and Odile.
Odette: Young princess transformed into a swan by Rothbart, only eternal love can free her.
Odile: Rothbart’s daughter, she takes the appearance of Odette to trick Siegfried.
Rothbart: A huge bird of prey, he transforms young women into swans and prevents Siegfried and Odette’s union.
Wolfgang: The Prince’s tutor, he mysteriously disappears when Rothbart appears.
  • Opening
  • First part 80 mn
  • Intermission 25 mn
  • Second part 70 mn
  • End
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Audio clips

Le Lac des cygnes (saison 22/23)- Acte2 (Finale)

Le Lac des cygnes (saison 22/23)- Acte4 (Finale)

Le Lac des cygnes (saison 22/23)- Acte3 (Finale)

Le Lac des cygnes (saison 22/23)- Acte3 (Danse espagnole)

Backstage

  • Passing on Swan Lake

    Video

    Passing on Swan Lake

  • Draw-me Swan Lake

    Video

    Draw-me Swan Lake

  • An otherworldly ballet

    Video

    An otherworldly ballet

  • Mime in Swan Lake

    Article

    Mime in Swan Lake

  • The symbolism of Swan Lake, from stage to screen

    Article

    The symbolism of Swan Lake, from stage to screen

© Yonathan Kellerman / OnP

Passing on Swan Lake

06:31’

Video

Passing on Swan Lake

Nureyev according to Claude de Vulpian

By Antony Desvaux

Promoted to Étoile dancer in 1978, Claude de Vulpian continues to pass on her experience to the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet. For the revival of Swan Lake, she coached Dorothée Gilbert, Guillaume Diop and Pablo Legasa in the roles of Odette/Odile, Prince Siegfried and Rothbart. She recalls the personality of Rudolf Nureyev, whose partner she frequently formed in the great repertoire ballets. She discusses his 1984 production of Swan Lake for the Paris Opera Ballet and describes the way he worked, his discipline and his imagination. In particular, she details his distinctive choreographic style, his musical sensitivity and his approach to pas de deux.    

Draw-me Swan Lake

01:15’

Video

Draw-me Swan Lake

Understand the plot in 1 minute

By Octave

In Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky took up the legend of the immaculate bird to create some of the most beautiful music ever written for ballet. The choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov left their distinguished mark on this story of an impossible love between an earthly prince and a bird‑princess, refashioning the myth of the swan‑dancer, the ultimate ballerina. When creating his version for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1984, Rudolf Nureyev chose to give it a Freudian dimension, illuminating Tchaikovsky’s poetic dream through a sense of profound hopelessness.  

© Yonathan Kellerman / OnP

An otherworldly ballet

05:01’

Video

An otherworldly ballet

Myriam Ould-Braham rehearses Swan Lake

By Antony Desvaux

Danseuse Étoile, Myriam Ould-Braham interprets the dual role of Odette and Odile – the White and Black Swans – in Swan Lake. Created in 1984 for the Paris Opéra Ballet, Rudolf Nureyev’s production magnifies the psychological depth of Petipa, Ivanov and Tchaikovski’s opus.

Myriam Ould-Braham tells about her work rehearsing with Florence Clerc and the way she defines through movement the White Swan as virginal and mystical, and the Black Swan as deceitful and cruel. Finally, she highlights the role of the Corps de Ballet, truly posing as a flock of birds dancing in unison with the principal figure of the woman-swan.  

© Svetlana Loboff / OnP

Mime in Swan Lake

Article

Mime in Swan Lake

Episode #1

04’

By Octave

A much-appreciated art during the 19th century, the aim of mime was, quite simply, to tell a story through gestures and was often used in action ballets to move the story along. Today regarded as somewhat outdated, it nevertheless remains a discipline with a codified language which is difficult to master. In Swan Lake, Rudolf Nureyev chose to retain the mime scene in Act II and originally created by Marius Petipa. It is the crucial point at which Odette encounters the Prince for the first time and tells him about her curse. The ballet is temporarily suspended to allow for a few moments of narration and mime. Hannah O’Neill, Première Danseuse of Paris Opera, and Ballet teacher Jean-Guillaume Bart examine this mime for us. Midway between a dance pose and a natural position, it must be neither mechanical nor caricatured, but rather, a silent declamation.


Follow the dissection of Mime in Swan Lake (diaporama)

The Prince asks Odette who she is. When the mime begins, the two dancers share the stage. The centre is empty.

La Pantomime du Lac des cygnes
La Pantomime du Lac des cygnes 20 images

© Julien Benhamou / OnP

The symbolism of Swan Lake, from stage to screen

Article

The symbolism of Swan Lake, from stage to screen

Inner turmoil and artistic perfection

05’

By Paola Dicelli

Swan Lake was the first music for a ballet which the Bolshoi Theatre commissioned from Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1877, to accompany the choreography of Julius Wenzel Reisinger. The initial version was judged mediocre at the time, however, it was unearthed thirteen years later by Marius Petipa. If he remains faithful to Tchaikovsky’s intentions, the symbolism of the white swan and the black swan was explored in greater depth by Rudolf Nureyev to give the ballet a more psychoanalytical dimension. That interpretation would later be used by a number of filmmakers as they constructed psychological thrillers while questioning the quest for artistic perfection.   

Several versions of Swan Lake exist, but the one by Rudolf Nureyev — created for the Paris Opera Ballet in December 1984— undoubtedly remains the most Freudian. The choreographer opted to place a male character, Prince Siegfried, at the heart of the narrative to portray the full gamut of his emotions on stage. In the prologue, the dozing prince has a “strange and premonitory” dream just as the synopsis for the ballet indicates. A princess is captured by a bird of prey and takes to the skies with it…a scene that in reality heralds the end of the ballet. In Leonardo da Vinci a Memory of His Childhood, published in 1943, Sigmund Freud writes: “To be a bird is only a disguise for another wish […] in a dream, the desire to fly signifies nothing other than the inner desire to be capable of sexual activities”.

Here, Odette, the white swan, symbolises the perfect woman, the one to which Siegfried must go to, even though he is irremediably attracted to a darker more shameful desire (homosexuality?) represented by Odile, the black swan. This inner turmoil is also exacerbated by Wolfgang, his tutor, and Rothbart, the cruel magician, each in turn a symbol of a Freudian projection of the Superego (reason) and the Id (perversion). This analysis is all the more poignant when we take into account that Tchaikovsky himself was homosexual. Embittered by this, Tchaikovsky wrote at the time in a letter to his brother Modest: “I find that our tendencies are the greatest and most insurmountable obstacle to happiness”. A quote that could equally be applied to Siegfried, who ends up mired alone in the fog of his own consciousness.    

Black Swan avec Natalie Portman, Darren Aronofsky, 2010
Black Swan avec Natalie Portman, Darren Aronofsky, 2010 © Collection Christophel / Fox Searchlight Pictures / Cross Creek Pictures

In 2010, Darren Aronofsky directed the film Black Swan, the story of Nina, a dancer at the New York City Ballet who, after accepting the role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, plunges into a profound introspection that ultimately leads to her demise. Even though the ballet staged in the film is not Nureyev's, the director draws inspiration from the choreographer’s Freudian aspirations to turn Nina’s life into a mise en abyme of Swan Lake. At the beginning of the film, the dancer is a young innocent girl who cuddles the stuffed toys in her room and seems withdrawn. She has everything to embody the white swan or rather, on a second level, everything to embody Siegfried. Like him, she often has dreams haunted by a black bird—a representation of her repressed fantasies of rebellion, strength and desire for a woman (Lily, a fellow dancer). Nina in fact seems more like Siegfried’s avatar than the “Black Swan” at the end of the film: at the film’s conclusion, she dies in the costume of the white swan after fighting her morbid impulses. Just like the prince in the ballet, who is left alone and unhappy once the evil has been banished.

But Swan Lake also questions the quest for perfection in an artist, particularly a dancer. In the ballet, that perfection is symbolised by the white swan—an unattainable figure for Siegfried. Furthermore, irrespective of the choreography, there has only ever been one dancer to portray these two swans with diametrically opposed characters. It is a complex interpretation and a rite of passage for any ballerina who dreams of surpassing herself. It is also symbolic of self-denial and a font of inspiration for filmmakers. In Black Swan, Nina is in search of the ideal incarnation and ready to die for it. As such, in the closing scene, after stabbing herself with a piece of glass (while fighting against her inner enemy), she performs the final act, collapses, covered in blood, and murmurs: “That was perfect”.    

Les chaussons rouges avec  Moira Shearer, Michael Powell, 1949
Les chaussons rouges avec Moira Shearer, Michael Powell, 1949 © Collection Christophel / RnB © Independent Producers

Another example can be seen in the 1948 film The Red Slippers by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. In that film, Victoria Page is a young ballerina whose performance in Swan Lake is criticised by the director of the ballet. Madly in love, she does not manage to express herself in her art and must choose between her lover and her love for dance... In utter despair, the young girl ends up killing herself by jumping off the balcony of the Opera. Here again, Swan Lake seems to be the driving force of the same passion: to abandon everything for the sake of art, at the risk of losing one’s life.


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