The iconic music of Swan Lake is the backbone of the renown classic, but how did it get there? Tchaikovsky was commissioned to create the score for Swan Lake in 1887, though the initial production was considered a failure. Choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov revived it with new choreography in 1895 using Tchaikovsky's score. Since then, the work has become of the most widely performed ballets across the world.

"The music is charming, atmospheric, bold, and sometimes delicate as a feather", said Ballet West Music Director Jared Oaks. "The material associated with swans is probably what most people are already familiar with. Some of the most affecting music helps to depict the relationship between the prince and the swan who has captured his heart and imagination. I think people can relate those tender parts of the score to the love in their own lives."

Oaks says audience members should pay attention to the oboe and violin solos, in particular. There is a subtle dance that happens between the conductor, dancers, and musicians. "There's an immense amount of give and take, so it's not just us playing the music. At times, the most appropriate thing to do is to be as musical as possible, within the demands of the choreography, and then allow the dancer to manage their own space and time." said Oaks. "There are moments that require dancers to react to a certain note and other moments when the movement dictates what we do in the pit. The latter situation requires what I call 'placing the music.'"

Some of the most difficult parts for Oaks happen during the Act II pas de deux. "It's completely exposed for our incredible concert master Aubrey Woods and also requires heightened awareness from me at the podium. My job in some respects is to be partly psychic, partly predictable. The conductor shouldn't jerk the music around in those difficult concertmaster solos but let her play with some degree of freedom. In those moments, I become a part of a committee with the dancers and musicians, not so much a dictator. The effect of that collaboration is immensely satisfying and often moving."

Come hear the music that matches the ballet perfectly and don't be surprised if you walk away from Swan Lake humming the music. "One of Tchaikovsky's gifts is that he gives you something that can be remembered easily, so it's like going home when you hear it."

More Info for Swan Lake
Feb. 9 - 17, 2024

Swan Lake

A must-see priority for every theatre-goer!