The Story of Swan Lake

Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili with Artists of Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's Swan Lake

Photo credit: Rosalie O'Connor

Explore the story of Swan Lake, a dark and mystical tale of enchantment, deception, and the power of true love.

Patrick Yocum and Viktorina Kapitonova

Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini

Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili in Mikko Nissinen's Swan Lake

Photo credit: Rosalie O'Connor

The Lakeside
On a beautiful day by a scenic lake, a group of friends are ending their picnic. As the friends drift away, one girl remains behind, immersed in her book. A handsome gentleman passes by and introduces himself cordially, but the girl is wary of the stranger and becomes frightened. The man’s demeanor changes, and he is revealed to be the malevolent sorcerer, Von Rothbart. The sorcerer casts a spell that transforms the girl into a swan.


The Castle Gardens
Prince Siegfried is celebrating his coming-of-age with friends and his longtime tutor. The Queen Mother appears, interrupting the festivities to remind Siegfried that he must select a bride the following evening at the grand ball held in his honor. Before departing, the Queen Mother presents Siegfried with a handsome crossbow for his birthday, reminding him again of his responsibilities.

The weight of such a momentous decision fills Siegfried with trepidation and melancholy. Nevertheless, he joins his friends in dancing. As twilight falls, Siegfried spots a flock of wild swans flying through the darkening sky. Avoiding thoughts of his impending dilemma, the young prince wanders through the forest to the lakeside.


The Lake
Von Rothbart emerges through a mysterious mist over the lake and when Siegfried arrives to hunt, the sorcerer hides from view. Siegfried hears a noise and raises his crossbow to shoot, but lowers it when a beautiful swan appears. The swan is wearing a crown of white feathers and she trembles with fear as she shares that she is Odette, the Swan Queen.

Mesmerized by her beauty and vulnerability, the prince reassures her that he means no harm. Odette tells him how Von Rothbart transformed her and her friends into swans and that the lake was formed by the tears of her grief-stricken mother. The spell can only be broken when a young man pledges himself to Odette. Overcome with desire, Siegfried vows his eternal love and fidelity to the enchanted Swan Queen.

As dawn breaks, Von Rothbart reappears. Siegfried journeys home with determination to rescue Odette, unaware that Von Rothbart has been watching them.


The Castle Ballroom
The grand ball commences, and Siegfried’s friends dance in his honor. Six young princesses are introduced and many guests from distant lands perform, displaying their national pride. Enamored with Odette, Siegfried rejects all of the prospective brides.

Suddenly a trumpet fanfare announces two unexpected guests: Von Rothbart and his daughter, Odile. Through her father’s sorcery, Odile has taken on the appearance of Odette. Dressed in black, Odile flirts brazenly with Siegfried. Believing that Odette has come to him in masquerade, the prince joyously selects Odile as his bride. The Queen Mother willingly approves of the match and Von Rothbart demands that Siegfried profess his love for Odile. In doing so, Siegfried unwittingly breaks his vow to Odette.

With malicious pleasure Von Rothbart reveals himself as the evil sorcerer, knowing Odette and her friends will be swans forever. The real Odette appears above them and Siegfried realizes the tragic deception.

Mikko Nissinen's Swan Lake

Photo credit: Rosalie O'Connor


The Lake
Devastated by Siegfried’s unwitting betrayal, Odette mournfully tells the swans they are captives to Von Rothbart’s spell for eternity. The Swan Queen is heartbroken, and Siegfried rushes to her side and begs for forgiveness. He passionately describes how he too was deceived by the wicked Von Rothbart.

Bound together by the power of their love, Siegfried and Odette defy and destroy the villainous sorcerer. Even in death Rothbart’s spell is still so powerful that Odette and the swans remain doomed. Siegfried is overwhelmed with misery as Odette must return to the lake. The prince follows his true love into the water, overtaken by his passion and the waves.