The much-feared sorcerer Rothbart captures princess Odette of a distant land and turns her into a swan.
Prince Siegfried is preparing for his birthday celebration, which is to double as a coronation. He will take reign of the kingdom from his mother, a cold-hearted widow queen. The Chamberlin has been a father figure to him ever since the king’s death. The queen has invited four princesses to meet Siegfried for him to find a bride. Siegfried is disinterested and anguished, so he leaves to hunt by the lake with his friends. As he arrives at the lake, the prince sees a flock of swans and Odette, transformed into a beautiful princess. Odette tells him about Rothbart’s spell until the sorcerer draws her away. Odette protects the swan maidens from the prince’s hunter friends, and Siegfried stops them from shooting at the swans. Odette and Siegfried dance a duet, which cements their love. As dawn breaks, Odette tells Siegfried that she can only remain a princess if someone breaks the spell by swearing eternal love to her through marriage. Rothbart interrupts the scene and the swan maidens turn back into swans. Led by Odette, they fly away.
Back at the palace, the princesses each present a dance from their native country to entice the prince. Rothbart arrives with his daughter Odile, whom Siegfried mistakes as Odette. As they dance, Odette tries to get his attention, but the prince is entranced by Odile. Only when the prince has professed to marry Odile does Rothbart reveal the begging, crying Odette. In shock, Siegfried rushes out to find Odette.
Odette tells the swans that Rothbart has once again succeeded in stopping the curse from being lifted. Siegfried arrives in search of Odette. Rothbart sees that he is armed and escapes. Odette forgives Siegfried, but Rothbart returns. Just as Siegfried attempts to kill Rothbart, Odette runs to stop him and is hit by his arrow. The desperate Siegfried is wracked with guilt: is this how their love story ends?
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