“The Swan”

I played Saint-Saëns’s “The Swan” for a great number of distinguished and famous ballerinas during a ballet called The Dying Swan. It often came up in galas (galas are a potpourri of the best moments in an upcoming season, performed on either opening night or for some fundraising event). My most memorable rendition of “The Swan” happened on a Saturday night between the two acts of the ballet Giselle.

Every week of the eight-week American Ballet Theatre season at the Metropolitan Opera House had twelve services. Six days a week we had either a rehearsal and a performance, or we had two performances. By Saturday night, I required a little bit of alcohol to ease the pain.

One Saturday evening I was in the pit warming up during the noisy intermission of a performance of Giselle, when I heard the harp player, Bob Barlow, playing the introduction to “The Swan.” I naturally joined in with the melody, and as I was playing I noticed that the sound of the audience had died down to nothing. I was in full spate, and simply couldn’t stop playing. When we finished the audience started applauding. Bob Barlow stood up and yelled out to them. “Throw money.” Nobody did.

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