Prince Siegfried and his friends are celebrating his coming-of-age. The Queen gives him a crossbow and reminds him that the time has come to consider marriage. At the ball tomorrow he must choose a bride. Night falls. The guests depart. Siegfried is tormented by forebodings that are unclear. Seeing a flock of white swans in the sky the Prince sets out for the lake.
A lake in a forest glade. On coming ashore the swans are transformed into girls and Siegfried drops his crossbow, staggered by the beauty of the Swan Queen. Odette tells him that the swan-maidens are under the power of the evil sorcerer von Rothbart and only the power of wholehearted love can undo the magic spell. Siegfried swears eternal love to Odette.
A ball at the castle. One after another, beauties from different countries appear before the Prince, but not one of them can grasp his attention. Siegfried’s heart belongs to Odette. The sounds of a fanfare announce the arrival of more guests. Disguised as a noble knight, von Rothbart enters, and with him is his daughter Odile. Siegfried is struck dumb – this beautiful maiden is exactly like Odette! Odile gives the Prince no time to come to his senses, she lures and bewitches him, and the Prince is so attracted that he declares his love for her. Von Rothbart is triumphant. Understanding the full horror of the deception of which he has been the victim, Siegfried rushes to the lake and to Odette.
Night. The shore of the lake. Odette is telling her friends about von Rothbart’s villainy and Siegfried’s betrayal. The Prince appears and begs her forgiveness. Black swans sent by von Rothbart attempt to separate the lovers, but Siegfried defeats the sorcerer. The powers of evil are at an end and the rays of the rising sun bring life, love and happiness...