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Ménage à trois at the Imperial Court
February 1, 2019
Tsarevitch Nicholas dancing with Mathilde

Prologue
INFATUATION (1884)
The young tsarevich Nicholas, an admirer of Tchaikovsky’s music, hears a melody from the composer: it is young Alix of Hesse, visiting the Imperial Court, who is playing the piano, her eyes fixed on a beloved toy swan. Nicholas is enchanted by the sight of the dreamy girl and, inspired, he joins her at the piano. When Tsar Alexander enters the music room, the governess hurriedly leads Alix away. Confused, Nicholas stops playing and, clutching the little girl’s swan, obediently leaves under his father’s reprimanding gaze. The tsar does not approve of the crown prince’s romantic raptures, so he takes the princess’ toy away.

Act I (1890)
Scene 1. THE LEGATION
Six years later, a ball is in progress at the palace and Tsarevitch Nicholas’s aide-de- camp, Volkov the hussar, proposes a dance in anticipation of the tsarevich’s arrival. Volkov introduces two young ballerinas, Mathilde Kschessinska of Polish descent and Olga Preobrajenska who is Russian, to the imperial family. The three of them then perform a dance. The crown prince finally arrives and notices Mathilde as she leaves. Envoys from the Duchy of Hesse arrive at the Russian court carrying a portrait of Princess Alix lost in a book. They are there to arrange a marriage between their princess and the heir to the throne. The tsarevich is enchanted with the picture of his youthful love, but the tsar firmly turns down the Hessian mission. Alix has also sent Nicholas her favorite fairy tale, a story about enchanted swans. The tsar is outraged at the princess’ premature gift to his son and angrily leaves the room with his family. Nicholas feels deeply hurt by his father’s arrogance and humiliated in the eyes of the court.

Act II (1890)
Scene 2. THE MANOEUVRES
The tsarevich’s guardsmen are holding manoeuvres at the lake in Krasnoye Selo. Nicholas tries to forget his conflict with his father, but his thoughts keep revolving around Alix. The guardsmen arrange some entertainment to distract the tsarevich from his nostalgia. The men’s performance is interrupted by the arrival of Tsar Alexander. He is visiting the soldiers at the training ground. The tsar is accompanied by his favourite Polish mazurka dancer, Feliks Kschessinski, and some female dancers, among them Mathilde and her friend Olga. Tsar Alexander wants to coax his son by fraternizing with his comrades. Dancing begins and the mazurka featuring Kschessinski and his daughter draws Nicholas’ attention to Mathilde, who even manages to get the tsarevich to join in. When the tsar and Kschessinski leave the youngsters to their fun, the guardsmen and dancers conclude with a polonaise. Mathilde can sense the tsarevich likes her, so she tries once again to dispel his gloomy mood. Nicholas yields for a moment, but then returns to his beloved book. He asks Volkov to escort Mathilde away then dismisses him as well, going back to his thoughts.

Scene 3. DREAMING OF ALIX
The tsarevich returns to his tent longing for Alix and dreamily falls asleep holding her book. His dreams are disturbed by images of his father, but are rapidly chased away by visions of his beloved Alix, who turns into the protagonist of her fairy tale, Odette, who is transformed into a swan. Meanwhile, fascinated by the tsarevich, Mathilde refuses to give up and goes looking for him. As Nicholas continues wandering among the swans in his dreams, she creeps into his tent. Looking through the book the tsarevich is always reading, Mathilde begins to understand his romantic reverie…

Act III (1894)
Scene 4. THE MASKED BALL
Four years later, Mathilde is the prima ballerina of the Imperial Theatre and the crown prince’s mistress. Aware of Nicholas’ weakness for the romantic fairy tale about enchanted swans, she hosts a themed ball. The tsarevich is delighted, despite the fact that the dances at the masked ball don’t quite fit with the poetic world of his dreams. When Mathilde realizes this, she slips away at Olga’s advice, only to return in a swan costume. Thrilled by her new incarnation, Nicholas loses his detachment and happily surrenders to her charms. Kschessinski tries to curb his daughter’s behaviour, but she is out of control. Amidst the fun, worrying news arrives of Tsar Alexander’s illness. Nicholas is in shock. Busy enjoying himself, he had forgotten about his father and his beloved Alix.

Scene 5. RETURN TO ALIX
Wanting to escape reality, Nicholas finds solace in the imaginary world of his tale. Alix, betrayed, is still waiting for him among her swan companions. As the fairy-tale Odette, she forgives him for his infidelity, which unfortunately changes nothing to the tsar’s opposition. Nicholas decides to fight for his love, even if it means disobeying to his own father. When he finally frees himself from his father’s power, Odette turns into the real-life Princess Alix.

Scene 6. FAREWELL TO FATHER
Tsar Alexander is very ill. Surrounded by his family, he waits only for the crown prince’s return. Upon his arrival, Nicholas notices with satisfaction that the entourage also includes his beloved Alix. In a gesture of remorse and conciliation, the tsar gives him back the worn out toy swan that he had taken away from him years ago. He blesses his son’s love and dies, reconciled with him.

Scene 7. FAREWELL TO MATHILDE
Before marrying Alix, the tsarevich wants to say goodbye to Mathilde. His former lover waits for him at the place that had originally brought them together. She greets Nicholas, who is mournfully pensive, as the new tsar. Sweet memories come flooding back, but the lake reminds him of Alix, making him bid Mathilde farewell forever.

Epilogue (1896)
THE TSAR IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE TSAR
A courtly procession in honour of Nicholas’ coronation as the new Emperor Nicholas II and Alix as the new Empress Alexandra commences

A Word from the Artistic Director, Krzysztof Pastor
By Krzysztof Pastor
February 1, 2019
Krzysztof Pastor, Polish National Ballet's Artistic Director
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