Swan Lake is the vision of a poet: the beloved belongs to another world, the young woman/swan rendered inaccessible by virtue of her condition. Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov gave form to this fantasy in 1895, using the poignant score that Tchaikovsky had composed in 1877. In the "Freudian" version that Rudolf Nureyev staged for the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1984, the Prince Siegfried refuses the realities of power and marriage that his mother and tutor seek to impose upon him. He takes refuge in the imaginary, a vision of a magical lake that offers an idealized love that he is incapable of sustaining. In this production for the Paris Opéra, Nureyev remained faithful to the Petipa/Ivanov version, doing away with the character of the Jester (added in 1920, by Alexander Gorsky), and reintroducing the tutor Wolfgang – an authoritative and important influence on the prince – to Act I. It is Siegried's feverish imagination that transforms the tutor, in the following acts, into the malevolent Rothbart, a diabolical manipulator of bodies and souls. An equivocal, double-faced character, he symbolises a spirit of destruction that opposes the hero's idealism.
"For me, Swan Lake is one long daydream seen through the eyes of prince Siegfried. Reared on romantic reading, his desire for infinity has been fired and he refuses the reality of the power and the forced marriage imposed by his tutor and his mother. To escape from the dreary destiny that is being prepared for him, he brings the vision of the lake, this "elsewhere" for which he yearns, into his life. An idealized love is born in his mind, along with the prohibition that it represents. (The white swan is the untouchable woman, the black swan the reverse mirror image, just as the evil Rothbart is a corrupt substitute for Wolfgang, the tutor). And so when the dream fades away, the sanity of the prince does not know how to survive."
Rudolf Nureyev, Propos recueillis (1984)
"The Prince, a type of Hamlet, rearranged by Pouchkine and who would like... not to be" Horst Koegler