Last night I had the pleasure of attending the American Ballet Theatre’s production of Swan Lake at Lincoln Center. My obsession with Tchaikovsky’s ballet began at a very young age; as a three year old, my mother made me black swan and white swan costumes, which I wore threadbare, and my father taught me how to play the theme on the piano at the same age.
It only took me twenty five years to make it to a live performance, and it was far more sublime then I could have imagined. Leads Polina Semionova (Odile/Odette) and Marcelo Gomes (the prince) executed the choreography with consummate lyricism and passion, and of course Tchaikovsky’s music, conducted by David LaMarche, was purely transcendent.
My favorite part of the ballet has always been the famous leitmotif, the Swan’s Theme; never have I heard something so simple and so beautiful as a melody based on an A minor triad. It replays in my head over and over, like a seductive, drunk earworm. And in the scène finale, when the lovers are united in death, in which the theme transposes from minor to major? I can never get through it without weeping. It is my favorite, most beloved moment in music.
The Swan’s Theme in A minor