The Prince’s Birthday Party: It is Prince Siegfried’s twenty-first birthday and he is celebrating with friends. The Queen Mother arrives to give him his present, a crossbow, and reminds him that, as he is to become King, he must choose a bride at the ball the next evening. Siegfried, realizing that his carefree days are at an end, leaves the party at the height of the festivities to seek the solace in the woods.
Siegfried finds himself on the banks of a mysterious lake. In the shimmering patches of moonlight on the water, visions of bewitched swan maidens rise up before him. Siegfried catches sight of Odette, the most beautiful of the maidens. At last, he has found his romantic ideal of love. He swears to Odette that he will love her forever and be faithful to her. She admits that she and her companions are victims of a terrible spell cast by the evil sorcerer Rothbart. By day they are turned into swans and only at night they return to human form. The spell can only be broken if one who has never loved before swears to love Odette forever.
The next night, the Queen hosts a ball and presents eligible princesses to her son. The Prince must choose one of them to be his wife. Suddenly a couple of new guests are announced. The evil sorcerer, Rothbart, enters in the guise of a noble knight, followed by Odile, who looks remarkably like Odette. The similarity is so close that Siegfried believes that it is Odette standing there before him. Siegfried proclaims that Odile is to be his bride. Rothbard has triumphed! Siegfried has broken his oath to Odette, betraying her by professing love to another, thereby dooming Odette and the others to an eternity under Rothbart’s evil power. Suddenly a vision of the Swan Lake appears before Siegfried’s eyes. He realizes the terrible mistake he has made. In despair he leaves the palace and hurries to Odette at the Lake.
Night-time. A deep gloom overhangs the lake. Odette brings the tragic news; the Prince has broken his vow of faithfulness to her. Siegfried’s conscience is deeply troubled; he hurries towards Odette begging for her forgiveness. She forgives him and the pair reaffirms their love. Rothbart appears and insists that Siegfried fulfill his pledge to marry Odile. The sorcerer attempts to conceal Odette from Siegfried, but no power can stop the young man whose heart is full of love. This breaks Rothbart’s spell over the swan maidens, causing him to lose his power over them and he dies.