(8/13/02 8:06:05 am)
| Swan Lake|
Actually, there is no traditional fairy tale on whch this ballet scenario is based. The author(s) of the libretto are also unknown, but a collaboration is suspected between the inspector of repertory of the Imperial Theatres, one Begichev, the dancer Geltser, Tchaikovsky himself and numerous other parties. A prime source is a German story "The Stolen Veil" by Johann Musaeus, which apparently was fairly well-known in mid-19th century Russia.*
Hoever, the theme of " swan-maidens" is extremely common in folklore and mythology, especially, but not limited to Northern Europe. In two different operas of Rimsky=Korsakov they figure prominently: the Daughter of the Sea King ( Volkhova) enetrs in scene two of " Sadko", surrounded by her sisters, as a swan, and they are all water-fowl of some kind. The situation is exactly as that of Swan Lake Act II, ( or Act I sc2 of the revised version) . And one of the two heroines of " Tsar Saltan" is an enchanted Princess who has been turned into a swan. The painter Vrubel did a portrait of the singer of this role as the Swan Princess, and also married her.**
In Germanic myth, the Valkyries often used swan skins to achieve the power of flight, and in Andersen's " The Marsh/Bog King's Daughter" two wicked sister's of the Fairy King's daughter steal her swan skin and tear it to pieces, preventing her flight back to Egypt, and enabling the title character to abduct her down into the swamp. Indeed, many fairy tales include an episode where the swan skin is stolen, allowing the hero to have access to courtship of the enchanted princess.
* Tchaikovsky's Ballets, Wiley. Oxford , 1985.