Trying to name a better production team than the one that put on Swan Lake at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater in 1877, you would pick Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents. They brought West Side Story to New York’s Winter Garden in 1957.
In fact, the Russian show bombed. Still, Pyotr Tchaikovsky (as Bernstein) and Julius Reisinger (Robbins) got a consolation prize, though it was delayed. The ballet was revived in the 1890s, and since then new productions are always huge successes. Tchaikovsky, as they say, delivers.
Indeed, my daughter Chloe and granddaughter Olympia had the same part (different years) in The Nutcracker, but that is another story.
Swan Lake shows the power of love, but it also shows it does not always prevail, at least on Earth. The princess, Odette, has been transformed into a beautiful white swan; with other maidens under the spell of the sorcerer, she reverts to human form only at night. The spell will be broken if she finds true love.
Fortunately, Prince Siegfried encounters her while sulking over a marriage his mother is arranging. It is love at first sight, and marriage, founded on fidelity, will break the evil spell. But treachery — and tragedy — lurk.
There is some of this in West Side Story, wherein the princess’s brother wants her to stay within the clan, or tribe, and not get romantically involved with an enemy. Love brings Tony and Maria clarity, perhaps with the aid of the Spirit, of which swans are an allegorical representation in Catholic thought. The Holy Spirit — the Spirit of the Lord in Isaiah — is mighty, but human wit is dim and its spirit flags. Be thankful for the gift of seven swans a-swimming, and never forget their value!