Wild Swans, with choreography by Meryl Tankard, was a joint commission from the Sydney Opera House and the Australian Ballet in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Opera House. The work is a story of love, courage and endurance as the princess Eliza works to reverse the spell that has turned her eleven brothers into swans. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name, Tankard's Wild Swans was a mix of dance and photographic and video illuminations created to a specially commissioned score for orchestra and soprano voice by Elena Kats-Chernin. The soprano became a character in the ballet, that of the Good Fairy, and in program notes Kats-Chernin wrote: 'The sequences with the soprano are amongst those that I feel the most attached to, and have helped give the ballet score an unusual and unique sound'. The visual design for Wild Swans was inspired by the eccentric paper cut-outs of Hans Christian Andersen. Illuminations were by Regis Lansac, production design by Angus Strathie and lighting design by Stephen Wickam.
The world premiere performance of Wild Swans was on 29 April 2003 at the Sydney Opera House although it was given a special, celebratory opening gala and review performance three days later on 2 May. At both these performances the leading role of Eliza was danced by Felicia Palanca, Hans Christian Andersen by Stephen Baynes, Eliza's eldest brother (and lead swan) by Matthew Trent, the Prince by Damien Welch and the role of the Stepmother, a 'conjoined' character, by Rachael Read and Annabel Reid. The Good Fairy was sung by Lisa Crosato who alternated with Angela Brewer during the world premiere season. Annabel Reid alternated with Palanca as Eliza.
Wild Swans was scheduled to tour to Copenhagen in 2005 as part of festival celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen. The tour was however cancelled when the Hans Christian Andersen Foundation was no longer able to afford the staging costs following financial problems experienced by the main underwriter of the Festival.
For background on the collaborative aspects of Wild Swans see Michelle Potter, 'Wild Swans and the art of collaboration', in Brolga 18 (June 2003).
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An arrangement for viola and piano of Eliza's aria in Meryl Tankard's Wild Swans.