Scene 1 – Castle Gardens
On Prince Siegfried’s birthday a glittering party is celebrated in the castle gardens. The lively jester entertains the guests, who raise their mugs in honour of the prince. They dance and celebrate happily and boisterously.
Prince Siegfried’s mother appears at the castle. Siegfried greets his mother and politely welcomes her to his celebration. Siegfried’s mother reminds him that there will be a ball tomorrow and it is time for him to choose a bride amongst the participating guests. She presents him with a gift and leaves the party. Puzzled, Siegfried is in no great mood. He is not in love with any of the girls and does not want to lose his freedom. To forget his troubles, he decides to go hunting after all the guests leave the castle. Alone in the forest, Siegfried sees swans flying high in the skies. He takes his crossbow and follows them to the lake without realising that he is followed by evil Rothbart.
Scene 2 – At the Lake
Following the swans, the prince comes to the bank of the magic lake and sees a beautiful white swan swim near the shore of the lake amidst the realm of the power-hungry sorcerer Rothbart. They are enchanted, beautiful, maidens who only at night are free to retain human shape since they are under the spell of the wicked sorcerer Rothbart. Only the power of selfless love can break his evil spell.
Siegfried comes to the edge of the lake. The prince sees the swans, is about to cock his crossbow and, had it have been one moment later, his arrow would have bored into one of the swans. But just then, Odette, the swan princess steps out in front of him.
Dazzled and captivated by Odette’s magnificent beauty, Siegfried tries to grasp her. Odette sees the prince as her saviour but is nevertheless afraid of the sorcerer Rothbart. She escapes from the prince and returns to the group of maidens. When Siegfried assures her that he means no harm, Princess Odette reveals to him that she has been placed under a spell and turned into a swan by the wicked Rothbart. She explains that this spell can only be broken by the man who promises her his everlasting love. Siegfried swears to her his eternal devotion. Odette says goodbye to her lover, leaving a memory of a feather. Dawn begins to break and the maidens change back once more into swans.
Sorcerer Rothbart is plotting an evil plan.
Scene 3 – Ball in the Castle
On the next day the ball takes place in the queen’s castle. On this day, the prince is supposed to choose his prospective bride, but Siegfried is nowhere to be seen – he is late. The queen is concerned about price’s absence, but the ball has to start. The jester entertains the guests and one dance follows another.
Finally, the prince arrives. The queen presents to Siegfried the young girls from who he is to make a choice. However, none of them can catch his attention as his thoughts and feelings remain with Odette. Only to satisfy his mother, he chose to attend the ball and dance with the maidens.
Suddenly trumpets sound the arrival of more noble guests. It is an unknown knight (disguised as Rothbart) and his beautiful daughter Odile. Siegfried is stunned as Odile has an enticing resemblance to Odette.
Rothbart’s intentions are clear. He wants the prince to fall in love with his daughter Odile, forget Odette and therefore break the vow of love he swore to Odette.
Siegfried is fascinated by Odile and his doubts disappear. At the request of Rothbart, the prince swears his love to Odile and only then he sees a white swan in the window. Rothbart and Odile leave the ball in triumph.
Siegfried realises that he became a victim of Rothbart. In despair, he rushes to the lake to see Odette.
Scene 4 – At the Lake
The maidens are grieving at the lakeside. They know about Odette’s tragedy and that nothing can now same them from the spell. The prince appears at the lake and begs Odette’s forgiveness. He assures her of his strong and lasting feelings for her.
Suddenly Rothbart appears in a fury and recognises that the two of them have seen through his deceit. Siegfried challenges him to a fight and wins. The evil spell is broken, the power of the sorcerer is defeated and the swans change back into maidens.
An end has been put to the power of evil and the rising sun shines – love wins over evil.
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