The swans of St Petersburg
As many of you know, we've just returned from a holiday in Russia which, yes, was fantastic. And a bonus I was not expecting, although I should have since it was summer—the midnight sun or 'white lights' as they call it in St Petersburg. This resulted in many late nights out celebrating life with our friends as it always seemed too early for bed.
There are a few cultural aspects of Russia that would be known to most people, I would think. For example, Tchaikovsky, one of the greatest composers of all time, was Russian. He composed the music for the Russian ballet, Swan Lake, which may well be the only ballet storyline known to many of us. Likewise, Tchaikovsky's score is easily recognizable even if you do not know him as the composer or the origins of the music, especially since Black Swan.
Some of the world's greatest names in ballet are Russian, for example, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Anna Pavlova. Again, they are known the world over even by those who know nothing at all about ballet (although I remember Baryshnikov primarily because of his defection to Canada in 1974).
Australia's national dessert, the Pavlova, was created and named after Anna Pavlova in the 1920s following her tour of the antipodes. The Kiwis (New Zealanders) try to call it their own, but it's as Australian as vegemite and lamingtons. Sometimes we'll add Kiwi Fruit to the top of our pavlovas to keep the New Zealanders happy.
I had previously seen Swan Lake in Sydney some years ago but it was a parody by The Trocaderos, "The Trocks" or long title, Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, a company of professional male dancers who make ballet humorous by exaggerating the fundamentals and seriousness of it to the point of comedy. The dying swan scene is memorable and I worried that I would never be able to enjoy the 'real' Swan Lake after The Trocks. Here's the 'real' dying swan scene, which is beautifully poignant, and The Trocks' version. Incidentally, the dying swan was considered the signature dance of Anna Pavlova.
It was only fitting therefore that while in St Petersburg, we attended a production of Swan Lake at the Grand Palace Theatre. There are several possible endings to Swan Lake including the crowd-pleasing happy ending where Siegfried and Odette's true love defeats Von Rothbart, and Odette is restored to human form. One of the more tragic endings is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet ie Odette commits suicide, the Prince discovers her lifeless body and does so as well but Odette isn't actually dead. We were lucky enough to enjoy the happy ending in St Petersburg which gave further cause for an evening of celebration, as if one was needed.