Swan Lake is a romantic ballet in four acts. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote the music. In 1871 he wrote a little ballet about swans for his nieces and nephews. He used some of the music from this ballet for Swan Lake. The story of the ballet is based on a German fairy tale. This tale was probably tweaked by Tchaikovsky and his friends during the ballet’s early discussion stages.
Swan Lake is about a prince named Siegfried. He falls in love with the Swan princess, Odette. She is a swan by day, but a young woman at night. She is under a magic spell that can only be broken by a man who will make a promise to love her for all time. Siegfried makes the promise. He is tricked though by the magician who cast the spell. The ballet ends with the deaths of Siegfried and Odette.
The ballet was first performed on 4 March 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. Critics looked upon it as a failure for many reasons. In 1895 some changes were made to the ballet. It was then performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. This time the critics thought Swan Lake a great success. Most performances today are based on this 1895 version.