King Florestan XIV and his Queen have arranged a splendid christening to celebrate the birth of their newborn daughter, the Princess Aurora. Courtiers gather in the castle, awaiting the entrance of the royal couple. Catalabutte, the Master of Ceremonies, checks the invitation list to ensure that everything is in order. Trumpets sound, and the King and Queen enter.
The herald announces the arrival of the fairies. The Lilac Fairy, principal godmother to the Princess Aurora, enters, surrounded by her retinue of fairies, their cavaliers and pages. The pages bear gifts to accompany the qualities of beauty, wit, generosity, liveliness and intelligence that the fairies will bestow on the young princess.
Suddenly a noise is heard. The herald rushes in to announce the arrival of the powerful, evil fairy Carabosse. The King demands to see the invitation list, distressed when he sees that Carabosse was not invited to the christening. Catalabutte is in despair. How could he have made such a horrible mistake?
Carabosse appears in a chariot drawn by rats. The King and Queen beg her not to hold them responsible for Catalabutte’s mistake, and the mortified Catalabutte throws himself at her feet, pleading for forgiveness. Carabosse makes fun of him, pulling tufts of hair from his head and beating him with her cane.
The good fairies beg Carabosse not to harm their beloved godchild, but she proceeds to place an evil curse upon the baby. She allows that Aurora will grow up to be the most beautiful and enchanting of princesses; however, by her sixteenth birthday she will prick her finger with a spindle and die.
The King and Queen are horrified. Carabosse roars with laughter, reveling in her cruelty. But to her dismay, the Lilac Fairy steps forward and tempers her curse. Aurora will indeed prick her finger on a spindle, the Lilac Fairy says, but she will not die—instead, she will fall into a deep sleep. After a hundred years, a handsome prince shall come to find her and awaken her with a kiss. She will become his bride, and they will live in happiness and contentment.
The enraged Carabosse leaves in her chariot, and the good fairies surround the cradle, guarding their goddaughter from further harm. The King is relieved that the curse has been diminished; still, he issues an edict to ban all spindles from the kingdom.
Aurora has just turned sixteen. Catalabutte, supervising the preparations for the Princess’s birthday celebration, notices a group of village women knitting with spindles in front of the castle. He reminds them of the decree forbidding all spindles in the kingdom and threatens them with punishment. The King and Queen arrive, accompanied by four princes, Princess Aurora’s suitors. When the King hears of the crime of which the women are accused, he demands they be taken away to prison. The women beg for forgiveness. The Queen pleads on their behalf, and the King grants them mercy. The villagers rejoice.
Aurora enters, accompanied by her maids of honor. She is introduced to the princes, who are struck by her beauty. Aurora dances with them, and the King and Queen try to persuade her to choose one as her fiancé.
Suddenly, Aurora notices an old woman standing in the crowd, holding a spindle. She takes the spindle from the woman and begins to dance with it coquettishly to win the admiration of her suitors, but her dance ends abruptly when the spindle pricks her finger. Aurora rushes about in fear, then collapses unconscious. The King and Queen dash to her side.
The old woman throws off her cloak and reveals herself as the fairy Carabosse. She roars triumphantly that her curse has succeeded. The four princes rush at her, but Carabosse disappears in a cloud of smoke.
At that moment, the Lilac Fairy appears to remind the desperate parents that their daughter is not dead but asleep, and that she is destined to sleep for one hundred years.
The sleeping princess is carried to the castle, accompanied by the King, the Queen and members of the court. The Lilac Fairy casts a spell of sleep over the castle and all inside. When the princess awakens, they will awaken with her, but till then an impenetrable forest will shield them. The fairy’s pages gather around her, and she orders them to guard the castle so that no one disturbs the peace of those within.
Scene 1. The Hunt
One hundred years have passed. Prince Désiré and his party are hunting in the forest. He enters a clearing with his companions and tutor Galifron. The hunters dance to amuse themselves. They shoot bows and arrows and play various games.
The prince is told that a bear has been trapped in a thicket, but he is feeling listless and orders the company to go on without him.
Scene 2. The Vision
Just as the hunt party has gone, the Lilac Fairy, who is also the Prince’s godmother, appears in the wood. He bows before her. The fairy asks the Prince whether he loves any of the noble women in his court. Sadly, he says he does not. The fairy tells him of the beautiful and enchanting Aurora. She waves her staff and reveals the princess, asleep in the castle. She waves her staff again, and Aurora appears.
Prince Désiré is overwhelmed and entranced. He pursues Aurora, but each time she evades him. He wishes to embrace her, but she slips away and finally disappears.
Madly in love with the vision of Aurora, the prince throws himself at the feet of the Lilac Fairy. He asks her to take him to the castle, and they set off immediately.
Scene 3. The Awakening
Prince Désiré and the Lilac Fairy enter the castle chamber. The Prince tries to wake the King, the Queen and their sleeping court, but he only succeeds in stirring up clouds of dust. Finally, Prince Désiré sees the sleeping Aurora. He rushes to her and kisses her.
Carabosse’s spell is broken. Princess Aurora awakens, and with her, the rest of the court. The dust and cobwebs vanish, and the room is awash in light. The Prince implores the King to let him marry the Princess. The King agrees most happily and joins their hands in union.
The court assembles for the wedding of Princess Aurora and Prince Désiré. The invited guests include many fairy tale characters— Puss-in-Boots, Red-Riding-Hood, Cinderella, Hop-o’-my-Thumb, Princess Florine and the Bluebird, among others— who present their stories as gifts to the royal couple. Also present is the Lilac Fairy, and, in the spirit of forgiveness and celebration, even Carabosse has been invited.
After all these guests have paid their respects to the bride and bridegroom, Aurora and Désiré dance a grand pas de deux. The whole assembly joins in a dance in their honor, and the kingdom rejoices.