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Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake was first staged at Sadler's Wells theatre in London in 1995. The longest running ballet in London's West End and on Broadway, it has been performed in the UK, Los Angeles, Europe, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Israel and Singapore. The story is based on the Russian romantic ballet Swan Lake, from which it takes the music by Tchaikovsky and the broad outline of the plot. Bourne's rendering is best known for having the traditionally female parts of the swans danced by men.
This synopsis is derived from programme notes and the synopsis provided on the DVD. The plot of the ballet revolves around a young crown prince, his distant mother, and his desire for freedom, represented by a swan.
In the prologue, the Prince, as a child, is awakened by a nightmare of a swan. The Prince's mother comes in to comfort him, but becoming nervous by the situation's intimacy, leaves.
Scene One opens with the Prince being prepared for a day of official duties by chambermaids and valets.
In Scene Two, arrayed in his full dress uniform, the Prince becomes bored by a boat christening, a ribbon cutting, and other official tasks. His mother prods him to keep up appearances, even as she devotes more attention to the soldiers than she does to him. During this scene, there is a transition from the child actor playing the young Prince to the identically-dressed adult dancer who portrays the grown Prince. This now-adult Prince is introduced to a girl called "the Girlfriend". Although the girl seems foisted on him by von Rothbart, the Private Secretary, the Prince prefers her to his duty-bound life.
In Scene Three, the Queen, one of her admiring soldiers, the Private Secretary, the Prince, and the Girlfriend all appear in a theatre box, where they watch a ballet that is staged for the actual audience as well as for the characters. The ballet's backdrop (from a design for Castle Falkenstein by Christian Jank), ornate costumes, and acting parody the romantic ballets of which the original Swan Lake was an example. The Girlfriend's responses to the dance, and her eventual dropping her purse from the royal box, annoy the Queen and von Rothbart.
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