Anne Spudvilas, Swan Lake
Published by Allen & Unwin in 2017, 32p
Inspired by the riverscape of the Murray-Darling where her home is, talented Australian artist Anne Spudvilas reimagines the classic ballet Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the tragic story of Odette, the princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer.
There are many interpretations of the story, whose origins are believed to be in Russian and German fairytales, but they all imagine the tragic end of a passionate love story consumed by betrayal and dishonesty.
“I have always loved Swan Lake. As a child I spent hours lost in my mother’s book Stories of the Ballets. There was a particular black-and-white photographic plate that I returned to again and again. It was a scene from Swan Lake, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet. Its story of first love, good and evil, betrayal and loss, holds for me the traditions of our oldest fairytales.” Anne Spudvilas says when speaking about the sources for her own reinterpretation of the story.
The book is a visual enjoyment. Full of emotions, the charcoal illustrations recreate the tragic atmosphere of the story, told in three acts.
A grand ball is held by the Queen in the honour of the Prince as he must choose a bride from all the princesses in the land. It is a hard decision and his heart is heavy. While in the forest hunting the Prince meets the delicate Swan Queen:
A rush of wings startles him. He raises his bow as a flight of swans lands on the silver waters. But, to his amazement, the swans emerge from the lake as young women, led by the beautiful Swan Queen. The Prince is spellbound. As he steps from the shadows the Swan Queen freezes, but when he lowers his bow her fear melts away. The Swan Queen tells the Prince that she and her handmaidens have been cursed by a wicked Sorcerer to be swans by day and human from midnight till dawn. The Prince and the Swan Queen declare their undying love and they dance till dawn by the waters of Swan Lake.
Swans are symbols of faithfulness; once they find their mates, they will be bond for life. So when The Prince is distracted by another enchanting young woman, Odette will be heartbroken.
Thunder crashes, lightning strikes. Realizing his mistake, the Prince rushes into the night as a huge storm engulfs the forest… The Prince finds the Swan Queen despairing at the water’s edge. He begs forgiveness for his betrayal and she embraces him. The Sorcerer’s spell is forever broken but the Prince’s promise cannot be undone.
Rather than live apart, the two will commit suicide, thus breaking the spell with honest love and dedication.
Complement Swan Lake with Fiona French’s Snow White, a celebration of Jazz Age and Art Deco style.