31 October 1893, St Petersburg. Eight prominent men, one-time school classmates of the composer Tchaikovsky, have gathered to pass sentence on the man, summoned before their ‘court of honour’. For many of his contemporaries, the composer has been walking on thin ice for some time; his association with the shadier side of St Petersburg and his numerous affairs with teenage boys are no longer a secret in society. They threaten the composer with public exposure, disgrace to his family, and the certainty that his music will be banned. Alternatively, an escape route is offered: should Tchaikovsky agree to ‘the honourable way out’, taking arsenic in careful doses over the next three days, the brotherhood will secure his position as the greatest Russian composer for all times. So runs the theory…
The playwright who conceived the drama of The Swan Prince, Mart Sander, is a well-known musician, artist, author, TV host, and impresario from Estonia. Sander fell in love with Tchaikovsky’s music in his early childhood and has often performed it on the stage. According to him, there is no great conflict in the life of the composer: “Sin and virtue are concepts which are not only conventional but also variable. If sin – or more particularly, the public agreement on that particular sin – fuels the element of creativity, ignites the flame where noble and valuable things are forged, then perhaps it is we who have to renew our standpoint.”
In his play, Mart Sander goes a step further from the current theories about the composer’s death. He suggests that that the eight people involved were not acting merely to protect their alma mater, but rather themselves. In The Swan Prince everyone who passes sentence on Tchaikovsky has a purely selfish motive. He also suggests that real cruelty is not so much to attack your victim’s jugular and rip him apart, but to kill your friend with a smile on your lips, in an emotionless, methodical, matter-of-fact manner.
The Swan Prince, written in English, is available for performance in theatres worldwide. Please contact this agency if your theatre company would be interested in performing it.