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Swan Lake Synopsis
by Caroline Dickie
April 26, 2022

Prologue

A young woman, Odette, ventures deep into the woods one night with her friends, seeking adventure. Arriving at a lakeside clearing, the women are suddenly aware of a sinister presence. Unbeknownst to them, they have entered the lair of an evil predator, Rothbart, part man and part bird, who captures Odette with his enormous wings, the symbol and instrument of his power. As the others escape, Odette is cursed to live in captivity as a swan, returning to human form only at night.

Act I

Many Years Later: A Royal Courtyard

Prince Siegfried’s friends are preparing a surprise party in his honour as he has recently come of age and will soon take up his royal duties. The young friends bring gifts and enjoy an easygoing camaraderie in the absence of authority figures with Siegfried’s sisters Celia and Elizabeth and his closest friend Benno leading the charge.

Siegfried approaches with his beloved Tutor who presents him with a book, a sign of the education and care the Tutor has provided to him since childhood. Aware that his carefree days are now behind him, Siegfried is burdened with thoughts of the future.

Siegfried’s gloom intensifies when his mother, the Queen, makes an appearance at the party on her return from hunting and she presents him with a crossbow. The Queen reminds her son gently of his royal obligation to wed and says he will be expected to choose a bride the following night at the masked ball.

After the party, Siegfried shares his feelings of sadness with his Tutor and then abruptly sends him away as though testing his newfound authority. Brooding, Siegfried takes up the crossbow and sets out for the woods.

Act II

The Lakeside

Siegfried emerges by the lake to discover a mysterious transformation in process. Night has fallen and Odette is returning to human form. Siegfried watches from a distance and, enchanted, he starts to approach her. The sight of the crossbow frightens Odette but Siegfried gains her trust and she begins to tell her story, explaining that she is held captive by Rothbart and only a vow of true and faithful love will free her. Siegfried’s fascination with Odette deepens and they become closer, with each discovering a sense of freedom and understanding in their union. But Rothbart is quick to intervene and suddenly the lakeside is filled with women under his control. With dawn approaching, Siegfried prepares to vow his love to Odette but she cautions him that he must be certain it is a promise he can keep. Reluctantly, he agrees to wait until after the masked ball.

 

Intermission

 

Act III

The Following Night: The Masked Ball

Preparations are underway for the masked ball where Siegfried must choose a bride. Attendants light an enormous chandelier while the Tutor oversees every detail as Master of Ceremonies. Benno, Celia and Elizabeth arrive early and are soon joined by a room full of guests wearing fanciful costumes and masks that add intrigue to the glamourous event.

Siegfried arrives late, a sign of his reticence and preoccupation with thoughts of Odette. Four interested women arrive at the ball, eager for an opportunity to win Siegfried's heart. Each woman, with a group of friends in tow, performs a dance with the goal of captivating Siegfried’s interest and affection. But Siegfried is unmoved.

Fanfare sounds the arrival of a mesmerizing new guest, Rothbart, who has a plan to keep Odette under his control. With his identity concealed by his costume, Rothbart conjures a trick for the crowd – a stunning vision of a beguiling, masked woman called Odile who looks exactly like Odette. Everyone falls under Odile’s spell but none more than Siegfried who believes she must be Odette. At Rothbart’s prompting, Siegfried makes a vow of true and faithful love to Odile, betraying Odette in error just as Rothbart planned.

Chaos ensues and a violent storm floods the palace. Siegfried sees a vision of Odette in despair and, realizing his mistake, he rushes to the lakeside to find her.

Act IV

The Lakeside

Odette’s companions lament Siegfried’s betrayal and its consequences for Odette, who will remain imprisoned by Rothbart. Odette comes to them, heartbroken, and they commune with her tenderly.

Odette’s grief turns to anger when Rothbart appears. She confronts him with his treachery and in a furious response he whips up a storm. Siegfried arrives amidst the turmoil to beg Odette for forgiveness, which she grants, knowing that he has been tricked. But all is still lost. Rothbart separates the lovers a final time and he causes Siegfried to drown in the storm, leaving Odette in captivity.


Swan Lake is onstage June 10 – 26, 2022.

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