Regarding the original libretto there is hardly any evidence to prove who wrote it, or whence the idea for the plot plunged from. According to many an expert from the realm of art, certain German or Russian folk tales could be possible sources. The big question loomed over tales such as ‘The White Duck’ and Johann Karl August Musäus’ ‘The Stolen Veil’, although both those tales significantly differed from the classic ballet, ‘Swan Lake’.
Now when renowned Odissi danseuse from the Uday Shankar school, Sharmila Mukherjee is all geared up to portray the tragic love affair between princess Odette and Prince Siegried as adapated for the Indian audience under the title, ‘Hansika’ the big question is what message about the lakes has she to deliver that even Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, composer of the 1875 original, had missed to give. Hansika will be staged at Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Bangalore on March 31 2018.
The story of Swan Lake that has enthralled many along the timeline of history from the day it was popularised first has also packed an element of mystery in it regarding its source. There are many theories as well regarding this. One is that Julius Reisinger, the original choreographerwho was also a Bohemian would have created the story as being says it was written by the then director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, possibly with a danseur of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre, Vasily Geltser (one of the libretto’s surviving copy is said to have bearing his name). Adding to the enigma is the fact that the originally published libretto hardly corresponds with Tchaikovsky’s music in most places.
Nevertheless, some of the contemporaries of Tchaikovsky have recalled the composer taking great interest in the tale of Ludwig II, the Bavarian King. The tragic story supposedly being pitted with the sign of Swan could have been the dreamer Prince Siegfried’s prototype; hence favourite of the composer. Ironically it is also noteworthy that the tragic death of prince Ludwig II happened ten years after the ballet’s first performance.
Sharmila, having grown up watching Swan Lake along with similar works, obviously must have developed in her a deep rooted liking for the portrait of a love affair between a maiden turned into a swan by a diabolic sorceress, and a dreamer lad. Nonetheless, the element of mystery she conjures regarding her version of the classic original lies in a statement given by her to the media amid a briefing that she also has a subtle message to deliver at the end of the musical, which would be on lakes! She then made things more obscure by adding she did not want to give away too much regarding that as it could make things too complicated for the audience.
Whatsoever, from her briefing the admirers of good presentations of art know that the one-hour ballet would pack a shipload of emotions in it as a love story is expected to be replete with a great deal of love and passion alongside greed, jealousy and negativity. According to Sharmila, after finding it suitable to Odissi for its fluidity as well as movements, it was difficult for her as she had to chose a version suiting the Indian sensibilities. But something that she was sure about from the start was that she was making it female-centric despite the fact that the original version packed mostly male dancers.
An ensemble of twenty-five well-trained dancers will perform Hansika before the Bangalore audience.