Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Swan Lake

Music History Monday: Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Some Myths Debunked

We mark the first performance of the ballet Swan Lake on March 4, 1877: 147 years ago today.  Premiered at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, with music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), choreography by the Czech-born dance master Julius Reisinger (1828-1892), and its music performed by the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra, the first performance of Swan Lake landed with an epic THUD, meaning not good.   Pretty much every aspect of the ballet was critically blasted.  The vast majority of the critics present found Tchaikovsky’s score to be far too “complex” for a ballet; one critic called it:  “too noisy, too ‘Wagnerian,” and too symphonic.”  A visiting correspondent by the name of Tyler Grant called the ballet: “utter hogwash, unimaginative and altogether unmemorable.” Now, admittedly, there were some problems with that premiere performance.   For example.  The famed Russian prima ballerina Anna Sobeshchanskaya (1842-1918) was originally cast in the role of Odette – the “white swan” – the star and heroine of the ballet.  She may also have been slated to dance the role of the villainous Black Swan, Odile; today it is common practice for the same ballerina to perform the parts of both Odette and Odile.  However, it is […]

Continue Reading