The Lake of Sorrows

The Lake of Sorrows is an adaptation of Swan Lake. Tchaikovsky cobbled together a number of then-existing German and Russian folktales to create a story for the ballet.  The initial performance of the ballet did not go over well, but subsequently it did become one of the world’s most popular ballets and a staple of many of the finest ballet companies.

Swan Lake has had a number of different endings, depending on the times and the company producing it. In some versions Siegfried and Odette commit suicide together, sometimes Odette commits suicide and Siegfried is left to reflect on his folly, sometimes they both leave the Royal Ball in despair and we are left to imagine what happens. In one version, during the late Soviet Union, the Bolshoi ballet performed a version that ended in a great marriage ceremony of Odette and Siegfried 

What is this story about? On one level it is a cautionary tale about love. Even the most powerful cannot live without it, and are subject to its vagaries and disappointment. The young also can find it disappointing for many different reasons. Can the beloved ever live up to the idealization of the lover? How easy it is, in youthful  confusion and “eagerness”, to unknowingly mistake one love for another. And how often can even the best intentions end in disaster?

But why swans? The easy answer is that, in nature, they are beautiful, graceful creatures everyone loves to watch swimming on the water, so serene and self contained. But is there something in the story that touches us more deeply? There have always been runaway children, some are never heard from again. The reasons they run away are many and varied. No one knows for sure what happens to many of them, but heartbroken parents hope, maybe, they are somehow still alive, living a charmed life someplace. But they also fear that some evil person is holding them captive, preventing their return to the parents who miss them. In Swan Lake, and in this play The Lake of Sorrows, these wishes and fears are played out and give the story, I believe, both its fascination and poignancy.

E. Thomalen