The Australian Ballet

Swan Lake - The Story

Swan Lake

TAB Swan Lake Baynes Sydney Photo Daniel Boud 2016 aa69 1



Night. A palace terrace by a lake.

As his coming of age approaches, Prince Siegfried feels the heavy responsibilities of his rank. He grieves, too, recalling the funeral of his royal father that so overwhelmed him as a young boy.

Act I

Next day. The palace gardens.

Amidst the busy preparations for the Prince’s birthday, his young friends, fellow officers, and ladies of the court, seek to distract him from his melancholy. His widowed mother the Queen arrives with the Chancellor, who has effectively ruled the kingdom since the King’s death. Four foreign princesses are presented by their ambassadors as potential fiancées for the Prince, but he seeks diversion in drinking toasts and dancing. As evening falls, he feels the familiar lure of the lake, with its promise of comfort in solitude.

Act II

That night. The lake.

Siegfried is transfixed by the appearance of a swan, which changes before his eyes into the Princess Odette. She and her maidens are prisoners of the sorcerer von Rothbart, and condemned to be swans for all but a few hours of each night. Only a vow of true love and fidelity can break the spell. Entranced himself, Siegfried gradually woos Odette, and promises her his love: Odette gives him her heart, although she fears the elemental powers of the malevolent magician.


The next night. The palace ballroom.

A great ball is in progress, and this evening a distracted Prince is expected to choose a future consort to reign with him. None are aware of his secret love for Odette. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of von Rothbart and his retinue, which includes his daughter Odile. Strangely resembling Odette, the seductive beauty captivates Siegfried, who allows himself to fall under her spell, and to break the vow of fidelity. As von Rothbart triumphs, Siegfried runs from the palace in despair.

Act IV

That night. The lake.

The swan maidens, now spellbound forever, have gathered to protect Odette. Desolate, the Prince begs her forgiveness, which she bestows, knowing that they must part. In desperation he drowns himself, but as von Rothbart gathers his body from the lake, the soul of Odette is released. Although she will remain a swan, she is free of von Rothbart forever.

Cast of characters

  • Prince Siegfried, heir to the throne
  • The Queen
  • The child Siegfried
  • A babushka, Siegfried’s childhood nurse
  • Her husband
  • Ladies in Waiting to the Queen
  • The Lord Chancellor
  • Baron von Rothbart, an evil magician who presides over the lake by the palace
  • Benno, an officer and close friend to Prince Siegfried
  • The Duchess
  • The Countess
  • Foreign princesses, prospective brides for Prince Siegfried
  • Princess Odette, a captive of von Rothbart
  • Lead Swans
  • Cygnets
  • Odile, daughter to von Rothbart
  • von Rothbart’s entourage – Spanish dancers, Russian Princess, Cossacks
  • Officers and ladies of the court, Ambassadors, Swan maidens, Guards, Serving women

Production credits

Choreography Stephen Baynes

Music Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Designed by Hugh Colman

Lighting design Rachel Burke

Projections designed and directed by Domenico Bartolo (21-19)

A ballerina in white tutu leans down on one foot, arms and leg extended posing as a swan against a black background.

Swan Lake

  • Melbourne / Naarm
    September 2023

    Adelaide / Tarndanya
    October 2023

    Brisbane / Meanjin
    October 2023

    Sydney / Warrang
    December 2023

Swan Lake

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