Von Rothbart, also known as Rothbart, is the central antagonist in the Russian ballet "Swan Lake" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Rothbart is rarely seen in human form as he appears as a giant owl in the second and fourth acts. His human form is seen once in the third act with his daughter Odile, when she dances with the Prince Siegfried.
Rothbart is a manipulative, censorious, and powerful sorcerer who casts a spell on Princess Odette that turns her into a swan every day and returns her to human form at night. The reason for Rothbart's curse upon Odette is unknown; several versions, including two feature films, have suggested reasons, but none is typically explained by the ballet.
When Rothbart realizes that Odette has fallen in love with Prince Siegfried, he tries to intervene by tricking Siegfried into declaring his love for his daughter Odile. The plan succeeds, yet in the end, Rothbart is not triumphant. When Siegfried and Odette make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their love by throwing themselves into the lake, Rothbart's powers are overcome and he is destroyed.
However, his fate is different in some versions as there are productions where Rothbart is triumphant and survives. One example is the Bolshoi Ballet's version, where he is portrayed as the evil genius and plays a wicked game of fate with Siegfried, which he wins as in the end, Siegfried is the one to lose everything. In the second American Ballet Theatre production of Swan Lake, he is portrayed by the two dancers. One of them depicts him as young and handsome; it is this von Rothbart that is able to lure Odette and transform her into a swan (this is shown during the introduction to the ballet in a danced prologue especially created by choreographer Kevin McKenzie). He is also able to entice the Prince to dance with Odile, and thus seal Odette's doom. The other Von Rothbart, a repulsive, reptilian-like creature, reveals himself only after he has performed an evil deed, such as transforming Odette into a swan. In this version, the lovers' joint suicide inspires the rest of von Rothbart's imprisoned swans to turn on him and overcome his spell, which ultimately defeats him.