Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" is one of the most famous and beloved ballets that has been performed all around the globe. Russian ballerinas who performed the role of the Queen of Swans Odessa became the legends of ballet world — among them were Marina Semenova, Galina Ulanova, Maya Plisetskaya, Raisa Struchkova and Natalie Bessmertnova.
Swan Lake's libretto was written by the dancer Vasily Seltzer and playwright Vladimir Begichev. It is based on the swan motives in fairytales from around the world. Its difference from usual ballet scenarios is that it has a tragic ending. It is possible that this theme was an idea of Tchaikovsky himself, who back in 1871 composed a one-act children's ballet "Lake of the swans".
Unfortunately, in 1877, when the "Swan Lake" premiered on Moscow stage, there was no choreographer capable of understanding the author's idea and rising up to the task. Back then the Bolshoi Theater's ballet master Julius Resigner simply illustrated the literary scenario with his stage vision, using the music in the tradition of that time — as a rhythmical foundation for the dancing. But Moscow audience captivated by Tchaikovsky's melodies went to the Bolshoi not so much to watch the dancing as to listen to the music.
The "Swan Lake" had to wait for its second birth for almost 10 years — until 1893. It took place after the death of the great composer: at the memorial evening party St. Petersburg choreographer Lev Ivanov presented the second "swan" act with his own staging. Ivanov's rare gift was his ability to see music images as dance moves. Marius Petipa quickly appraised Ivanov's genius solution and suggested they stage the complete ballet together. That was how the famous staging of Petipa and Ivanov was born and it survives to this day.