Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Great Performances
HomeBroadcast ScheduleFeedbackNewsletter Great Performances Shop
Musical TheaterOpera on FilmClassical MusicDanceRegional PerformanceCinema
Multimedia PresentationsDialogueEducational ResourcesDance
Dance in America: ''Swan Lake'' with American Ballet Theatre banner
Angel Corella as Prince Siegfried and Gillian Murphy as Princess Odile (photo by Marty Sohl -- Thirteen/WNET)
Lesson Plan
Related Web Sites
American Ballet Theatre
Angel Corella (in Spanish)
American Ballet Theatre: Dancers: Principals: Angel Corella
American Ballet Theatre: Education: Georgina Parkinson
American Ballet Theatre: Education: Frederic Franklin
American Ballet Theatre: Dancers: Principals: Herman Cornejo
American Ballet Theatre: Dancers: Principals: Marcelo Gomes
American Ballet Theatre: Dancers: Corps de Ballet: Isaac Stappas
Classical Music Archives: Tchaikovsky Performing Arts: Marius Petipa



Like all the best tales of enchantment, "Swan Lake" involves a beautiful princess, a passionate prince, and a really major obstacle to their happiness. That obstacle is the wicked sorcerer von Rothbart (a dual role, danced by Marcelo Gomes and Isaac Stappas), who, in the prologue to Kevin McKenzie's adaptation, captures the Princess Odette (Gillian Murphy) and turns her into a swan by day. Only if a young man pledges his love and marries her can the evil spell be broken. But should he betray her, she will remain a swan forever.

Act I
To the jubilant opening strains of Tchaikovsky's score, Benno (Herman Cornejo), the childhood friend of Prince Siegfried (Angel Corella), leads the court and villagers in a celebration of the prince's coming-of-age. The Queen Mother (Georgina Parkinson) offers the prince his present, a crossbow. She reminds him that as he is to become king, he must choose a bride at the following evening's ball. Realizing the days of his carefree youth are over, Siegfried leaves the festivities to seek the solace of the woods.

Act II
Watch The Video

Later that night, in a moonlit clearing by the lake, the prince meets the mysterious Odette, who explains her fate. The prince is smitten and vows that he will save her. Von Rothbart suddenly appears and the prince draws his bow. But Odette shields the sorcerer's body with hers, realizing that should he die before the spell is broken, her destiny would be sealed. Von Rothbart disappears and Odette withdraws, as the awestruck prince looks on.

Watch The Video

At the ball, eligible royal princesses arrive from foreign lands -- Hungary, Spain, Italy, Poland -- all eager to be chosen the prince's bride and future queen. They present their native dances, but the prince's thoughts are only of Odette. Suddenly, von Rothbart arrives with his daughter Odile (Gillian Murphy), who is disguised as a black swan and appears identical to Odette. The prince is enraptured and they exit together as von Rothbart holds the court in thrall, dancing with each of the princesses. Siegfried and Odile return, she beguiles him, and the prince announces he will marry her. Von Rothbart demands he swear fidelity, and just as he does, the prince realizes he is the victim of a heinous plot. In a startling moment of clarity, he envisions the woman he truly loves and rushes to join her at the lakeside.

Act IV
A great storm rages as the prince arrives and asks Odette for forgiveness. She says she has no choice but to kill herself. The prince declares he will die with her. Von Rothbart appears and the lovers throw themselves into the lake. Von Rothbart is vanquished, his power destroyed -- but not before he witnesses the lovers' ultimate triumph as their spirits rise heavenward, united at last in life after death.

Top banner photos: Ballerina Gillian Murphy as Princess Odette, and with co-star Angel Corella as Prince Siegfried (all photos by Marty Sohl -- Thirteen/WNET).

Gillian Murphy as the duplicitous Odile

Gillian Murphy dances the dual role of Odette and Odile in "Swan Lake" (photo by Marty Sohl -- Thirteen/WNET).

Gillian Murphy as Princess Odette

Gillian Murphy has been a dancer with ABT for nearly 10 years (photo by Marty Sohl -- Thirteen/WNET).

Great Performances Shop

This program is available on DVD.
Buy Now