Though Swan Lake is a fairy-tale, our story actually took place in the last years of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's life. The Russian Tsar Alexander III initially wanted to distract his son Nicholas (known as Nicky) from his first love for Princess Alix of Hesse, preferring to offer him the interest of the young Polish ballerina, Mathilde Kschessinska. This dangerous game played with the emotions of the sensitive Tsarevich which led to unexpected results. Nicky did indeed fall in love with Mathilde in earnest, and in moments of passion even declared he would be ready to renounce the throne for her. Fortunately for the House of Romanov, this danger was ultimately averted – the crown prince's common sense and love for Princess Alix won. Sentiments however towards his Polish lover stayed with him for many years to come.
This famed historical episode became legendary, recurring in literature, theatre, film, and operettas, mainly through the once popular play The Tsarevich by Gabriela Zapolska. The legend itself was also fuelled by Mathilde Kschessinska herself, who in France lived to be almost a hundred as an émigré after the revolution. She often proudly recalled her affair with Russia's last Tsar on the eve of his reign. I have returned to that story in my version of Swan Lake for its similarity to Tchaikovsky's famous fairy tale ballet. This fact was noticed by Polish librettist Paweł Chynowski and he was the one to draw my attention to this striking analogy. Therefore, in this production Prince Siegfried turns into Tsarevich Nicky, Odette into his beloved Princess Alix and Odylie becomes Mathilde Kschessinska – one of the most famous Russian ballet stars of all time.
Even with the revised libretto and changed choreography, the production still includes the most valuable dancing sequences by Lev Ivanov (the white act) and Marius Petipa (black swan pas de deux) and I hope such a version of this popular ballet will be interesting for Canadian audiences. Wishing you much enjoyment of this original approach of Swan Lake performed by the Polish National Ballet.
Director of the Polish National Ballet