Swan Lake is a two-act ballet made by New York City Ballet (NYCB) ballet master in chief Peter Martins (after Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, and George Balanchine) to Tschaikovsky's eponymous music (1875–56). The premiere took place 27 October 1996, with the Royal Danish Ballet at the Royal Theatre, Copenhagen; the NYCB premiere was 29 April 1999 at the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center. Peter Martins' wife, NYCB principal dancer Darci Kistler, chose to include the final act of Swan Lake in her farewell performance, Sunday, 27 June.
Peter Martins' version of Swan Lake opened on 29 April 1999. It had been previewed three years prior to it opening at the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen. Martins used the style of neo-classic choreography and it was more of a dark fairytale than whimsical. The only traditional component of this dance was the original Tchaikovsky music score. The roles portrayed in the ballet were more provocative and mysterious than in the 19th century original. As in most productions of the ballet, the ballerina that originally plays Odette also plays Odile, and for this role she is dressed in black and red tulle rather than white feathers.
Prince Siegfried is about to turn 21 and realizes that he has the duty to find a wife. After being told to choose a future bride, the prince is presented with a golden crossbow. When he goes into the woods to hunt with his new weapon, he comes across the beautiful Odette. The evil and wicked Von Rothbart has transformed her from a princess into a swan. The bird seduces the prince because if he declares his love for her then she would be released from her bonds. The evil sorcerer sends his daughter Odile to seduce the prince, even though the bonds were destined to be broken by Odette. In the end, Odette is left in her bonds as a swan due to the prince’s misguided faithlessness.
• Premiere on 27 October 1996 at the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen.
• New York City Ballet opened on 29 April 1999.
The sets were created by the Danish painter Per Kirkeby, who "replaced opulence with a mood of impending disaster" (Cahill). In this version of Swan Lake the sets suggest more of a painful feeling, with thorn bushes and cobwebs rather than a magical lake or a palace. Also, instead of using serene colors like white and silver, Kirkeby used colors like blue-grays, brown, and very odd color mixtures like orange and emerald and later on royal blue and scarlet. The costumes were quite bizarre as well: "courtiers dressed as seventeenth-century Velasquez figures are contrasted in orthodox outfits, of tights, leotards, and ballet skirts" (Barnes).
Odette is the lead ballerina role and she has been transformed into a swan by Von Rothbart, the evil sorcerer. Odile, Von Rothbart's daughter, is played by the same ballerina as Odette. She is sent to seduce the prince, who ends up breaking Odette's heart.
Siegfried is the lead male role. He is of age to take a wife and he finds Odette. Because he falls in love with her, Odile is sent by the evil sorcerer von Rothbart to seduce him so that he will be unfaithful to Odette.
Odile is known as the "Black Swan" and only appears in the third act. Once she seduces the prince, Odette's bonds can never be broken and Odette can never become human again.
Von Rothbart is the main antagonist, an evil sorcerer. He is mostly shown as an evil bird throughout the ballet and rarely in human form. This sorcerer transformed Odette from a Princess into a swan, making true love the only thing that can break her bonds.