Prologue - The Christening
King Florestan and his Queen have invited all the Fairies to be present as Godmothers at the christening of the infant Princess Aurora. Unfortunately, the Fairy Carabosse has been forgotten, for she has not been seen for a long time. But nevertheless she arrives, vastly insulted, just as the other Fairies are bestowing their magic gifts. She gives a spindle as a christening present and then announces that one day Aurora shall prick her finger with it and die. Happily, the Lilac Fairy still has her own gift to bestow, and she confounds Carabosse by promising that Aurora shall not die but will instead fall into a deep sleep, from which she will be awakened after a hundred years by a Prince's kiss.
ACT I - The Spell
It is Princess Aurora's sixteenth birthday, and four Princes have come to woo her. During the festivities a strange woman approaches and shows her something which she has never seen before - a spindle. In examining it she pricks her finger. At her cry the suitors rush to her aid. The old woman throws back her cloak, revealing that she is Carabosse, and vanishes. Now the Lilac Fairy appears to fulfill her promise. She casts a spell of sleep over the whole scene and commands a forest to grow up that will conceal the palace.
ACT II - The Vision
A hundred years later the young Prince Desire is hunting in this same forest with some of his court. When a stag is sighted, the Prince's companions join the chase, but Desire remains behind, dreaming of an ideal love. The Lilac Fairy appears and shows him a vision of Aurora; she next summons the vision to dance with Desire. He implores the Lilac Fairy to lead him to where Aurora sleeps, and the Lilac Fairy takes him on a journey to the overgrown and wooded palace where Aurora lies. They encounter Carabosse outside the palace gates and the Lilac Fairy banishes her from the kingdom. Desire finds the Sleeping Beauty and wakes her with a kiss. The magic spell is broken.
ACT III - The Wedding
Fairy-tale characters come to the wedding celebrations of the Prince and Aurora. They pay their respects to the bride and bridegroom, and then the whole assembly joins in a dance. In an apotheosis, the Lilac Fairy appears and blesses the marriage.