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We present a Magical and Musical Story for the Christmas Holiday Season (or any time of year when you feel like some music and romance).
The story is based on the ballet by Tchaikovsky. We have incidental music from the ballet, but the highlight is a Swan Lake song specially written and recorded for this production. All this and two stunning original pictures. We have a few more credits than usual:
Song sung and arranged by Gabriella Burnel.
Song recorded and produced by Auburn Jam
Original Pictures by Sophie Green
Orchestral Music by Partners in Rhyme
Audio hosted by SoundCloud.
Story read by Elizabeth Donnelly
Story and Lyrics by Bertie.
A voice exclaimed, “Ah, here he comes,”
And the Queen, who was greeting her guests on the terrace of the palace, looked up with some relief, and saw her son, arriving on horseback, late for his own birthday celebration. By the gate of the garden he dismounted with arrogant agility, before springing up the steps on his long legs.
Many of the guests were gathered on the lawns before the palace. The royal and noble families of all Europe were well represented. And there was a particularly plentiful supply of pretty princesses of marriageable age. Now the message went around:
“He’s here, he’s arrived,”
All eyes were trained on the terrace, where the Queen was presenting her son with his birthday gift. It was a crossbow with a silver handle that was intricately engraved with scenes of wild birds, hares, deer, and other game. There was polite applause, as Prince Siegfried slung the hunting weapon across his shoulder by its leather strap. He still wore the gift while he did his duty and mingled with the guests.
The Prince had to find a handful of polite words for each and every guest. He found it somewhat trying at the best of times to make courtly small talk, and each time he was presented with a blushing princess, he could not help but feel irritated. He knew perfectly well what everyone, especially his mother, expected him to do. He was supposed to pick a Princess for his bride.
That evening, he was greeted by mouths that were toothy and grinning, others that were delicate and demure, and still others that were luscious and red. He could choose from eyes that were feline green, chocolate brown, sky blue, or owl grey. There certainly was no shortage of princesses in all shapes sizes and complexions. But the whole situation seemed to him quite unbearable. Even a prince cannot be pressured into falling in love right on cue. As darkness fell, he slipped away from the crowd and retrieved his horse. By the time his birthday fireworks were lighting up the sky, he had reached the edge of the forest.
Very little light from the stars of the moon came through the canopy of trees, but he and his horse knew the track well. They trod carefully, but he may have taken a different turning from usual, because he soon came across an unfamiliar clearing in the forrest, which, as he soon found, opened up onto a lake. The Prince sat down on a tree stump not far from the water’s edge and listened to the gentle lapping of the waves. His thumb stroked the silver handle of his crossbow. When a group of swans came gliding across the moonlit water, he recalled that swans are said to mate for life. That, he thought, is because their love is natural and sincere. No-one tells a swan when he or she is supposed to marry.
One of the swans rose out of the water onto the bank ,where she stretched her long neck and flapped her wings. Prince Siegfried raised his crossbow and took aim. His finger felt the trigger, but although hunting was one of the keenest pleasures of his gilded life, he could not bring himself to shoot a creature so peaceful and beautiful. He lowered the weapon and put it on the mossy ground beside him. As he did so, his eyes grew a little misty.
“Dash it. Not tears,” he thought. His finger wiped away a salty drop from the corner of his eye. Now he saw that that a star was shining directly onto the swan. But she was no longer quite a swan. Her feathers were fading, and she was undergoing some sort of magical moonlit transformation. He stood up and walked towards the remarkable vision. By the time he reached the spot where she stood, she was more woman than a swan, and then she fell gently backwards into his arms.
Falls upon the secret lake
More woman than a swan
Dance upon my pointed toes
More woman than a swan
This lake of tears
Sees me lift my chin
Sees me stretch my wing
Knows the hopes I cling
These slender reeds
See me twirl around
See me stroke the ground
See me fly unbound
Chance upon my lonely lake
The arrow from my heart
Dance upon the moonlit stream
Quite destined for this part
This dawn of hope
Sees us form a pair
Sees us tour the air
Sees us bound to share
These skies of fire
See you lift me high
See us soar and fly
See us turn into one
At light I’m gone
Back to a swan
woman no more
Magician condition enchanted
Only love that is loyal can grant it
Romantic quite frantic I sigh
For love that is sudden can lie;
Can lie, can sigh, can die.
Falls upon the secret lake
Woman than a
Woman than a
When the young prince returned to the castle, he was a different man from the one who had set out the night before, because now he knew what it meant to be in love with the mysterious and magical creature known as a woman. But this woman was even more elusive than most. At first light she had transformed back into a swan, and he had caressed her feathery neck before she returned to the cold waters of the lake.
Naturally he believed that their love was a secret. Little did he know, that one of the guests, Prince von Rothbart, had followed him to the lake, and had overseen his liaison with the Swan Princess. Von Rothbart was a master of the dark arts of sorcery. It was his magic that willed Prince Siegfried to aim his crossbow at the breast of the swan, but, on that occasion, the power of beauty overcame the evil spell before any harm was done. Now Von Rothbart was angry. He was afraid that Princess Odette – for that was who the swan really was – had found her true love. Love would smash the spell that he had used against Odette when he had imprisoned her inside the feathers of a swan. She could soon be free. A woman once more.
The following evening the champagne flowed and the orchestra poured out music for the guests at the castle. The grand ball, the climax of the birthday celebrations, was to be a magnificent spectator sport for the older generation. All eyes were following Prince Siegfried to see who he would invite to dance with him, and which pair of pretty feet would be most in step with his own. Those guests with daughters were than just passingly interested in the outcome. And none more so than Prince von Rothbart, for it was his plan that Siegfried should marry none other than his own daughter, Princess Odile. He did not believe in leaving a matter of such great importance to chance, let alone to the uncertainties of the heart. Before the ball began, he cast a spell on Odile to make her as alike in appearance to Princess Odette as his magic could manage.
Odile did not have long to wait for her invitation to dance, not just once but twice, and then thrice… four, five, six times. The onlookers were in no doubt that Prince had made his choice for the girl with a perfectly oval face elegantly balanced on a long neck, who held herself so perfectly, whose arms were so expressive, and who danced so lightly on her toes.
Von Rothbart congratulated himself. His connection by marriage to the royal family was all but in the bag. In fact, the only person in the ballroom who harboured any doubts was Prince Siegfried himself. He had seen his Princess only once before, and by moonlight. For sure, the way Odile looked and moved was perfection, but he could no longer feel the magic current of energy between them. Each time he asked her to dance, he was hoping to rediscover the enchantment that he had felt the previous evening. Was it her who was different, he wondered, or himself, or perhaps the situation with the crowd of onlookers?
Only when he had danced five times with her did be begin to realise that his commitment was growing all too publicly. In the satisfied eyes of his mother he was all but engaged. To back away now would cause talk, perhaps a minor scandal. The Queen would be far from pleased. And so he asked Odile to dance a sixth time. Now at last he did recognize the look in her eyes. He knew it too well. It was the satisfaction of a hunter who has shot and bagged a catch. At that moment he looked up, and saw, standing on the balcony, Princess Odette. The music played on. He could not stop the dance. Every beat seemed to last a tortuous eternity. Every step was weighed down by an iron ball chained to his ankle – or so he felt. And yet, for the sake of decorum, he must dance to the last bar. As soon as he was free from the arms of Princess Odile, he bowed, and backed away towards the door. He ran out of the castle and heard the clamorous wings of a swan, wheeling through the night sky for the forrest. He leapt onto his horse and pursued her to the lake. There he saw her land on the water, skidding on her feet before her. “Odette, Odette,” he called out. The swan turned her head toward him and then swam away into the shadows. The Prince waded into the water and swam after her. When he reached her they were both on the other side of life, where they are now together, for all eternity.
Words and Lyrics by Hugh Fraser aka Bertie 2010