World premiere: 20 February 1877, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow (choreography by Julius Reisinger)
Premiere in St Petersburg: 15 January 1895, Mariinsky Theatre (choreography by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa)
The terrace of castle is filled with joy and merriment - Prince Siegfried is celebrating his coming of age, his courtiers congratulate him while his mischievous jester entertains the assembled guests. The servants announce the arrival of his mother the queen, she presents her son with a crossbow for the hunt. The queen reminds her son that at tomorrow coming of age ball he will have to choose a bride. Night is fast approaching and the guests take leave, Siegfried is finally alone with his thoughts and premonitions of what the future may bring. In the twilight a flock of swans pass over and he rushes to the lake.
At the lake in the heart of the forest, the swans having stepped ashore turn into beautiful young girls Siegfried about to draw his crossbow stops fascinated by their beauty. Odette the swan princess is startled by Siegfrieds presence, he assures her no harm will come to her. Odette tells him of her terrible plight. Tells him of her high birth and how she has fallen under the spell of be a swan and only in the hours of darkness to assume her human form. She tells him she is bound for eternity by the spell unless an unblemished youth swears eternal fidelity and marries her. Siegfried realizes his destiny has changed. Day is breaking, the swans are again swimming on the lake, Odette bids a sad farewell, Siegfried is left desolate.
The coming of age ball commences at the castle. The young noblewomen whom the Queen has chosen as prospective brides are presented to Prince Siegfried, he shows no interest thinking only of Odette. The entertainment and merrymaking continue until a fanfare announces the arrival of more guests. Rothbart disguised as a knight sweeps in with his daughter Odille, Siegfried is dazzled by her beauty and her resemblance to Odette, swears his love and fidelity..... Rothbart the sorcerer triumphs in his deception. Siegfried horrified at what he has done rushes from the ball and into the night.
At the lakeside Odette tells her fellow swans of Rothbarts devilish trickery. Siegfried fleeing from the ball arrives at the shore begging Odette’s forgiveness and telling of his undying love for her. Rothbart appears and he and his black swans battle with Siegfried and the forces of good until the light of the dawn breaks and the forces of evil are vanquished. The rising sun gives birth to new life, happiness and love.