Scene 1: Madame Larina’s Garden
Madame Larina, Olga, and the nurse are finishing the party dresses and gossiping about Tatiana’s upcoming birthday festivities. Madame Larina speculates on the future and reminisces about her own lost beauty and youth. Lensky, a young poet engaged to Olga, arrives with a friend from St. Petersburg. He introduces Onegin, who, bored with the city, has come to see if the country can offer him any distraction. Tatiana, full of youthful and romantic fantasies, falls in love with the elegant stranger, so different from the country people she knows. Onegin, on the other hand, sees in Tatiana only a naive country girl who reads too many romantic novels.
Scene 2: Tatiana’s Bedroom
Tatiana, her imagination aflame with impetuous first-love, dreams of Onegin and writes him a passionate love-letter, which she gives to her nurse to deliver.
Scene 1: Tatiana’s Birthday
The provincial gentry have come to celebrate Tatiana’s birthday. They gossip about Lensky’s infatuation with Olga and whisper prophecies of a dawning romance between Tatiana and the newcomer. Onegin finds the company boring. Stifling his yawns, he finds it difficult to be civil to
them; furthermore he is irritated by Tatiana’s letter which he regards merely as an outburst of adolescent love. In a quiet moment, he seeks out Tatiana and, telling her that he cannot love her, tears up the letter. Tatiana’s distress, instead of awakening pity, merely increases
his irritation. Prince Gremin, a distant relation, appears. He is in love with Tatiana and Madame
Larina hopes for a brilliant match but Tatiana, troubled with her own heart, hardly notices her kindly, older relation. Onegin, in his boredom, decides to provoke Lensky by flirting with Olga who light-heartedly joins in his teasing. But Lensky takes the matter with passionate seriousness. He challenges Onegin to a duel.
Scene 2: The Duel
Tatiana and Olga try to reason with Lensky but his high romantic ideals are shattered by the betrayal of his friend and the fickleness of his beloved; he insists that the duel take place. Onegin kills his friend and for the first time his cold heart is moved by the horror of his deed. Tatiana realizes that her love was an illusion and that Onegin is self-centered and empty.
Scene 1: St. Petersburg
Onegin, having travelled the world for many years in an attempt to escape his own futility, returns to St. Petersburg where he is received at a ball in the palace of Prince Gremin. Gremin has recently married and Onegin is astonished to recognize in the stately and elegant young
princess, Tatiana, the uninteresting little country girl whom he once turned away. The enormity of his mistake and loss engulfs him. His life now seems even more aimless and empty.
Scene 2: Tatiana’s Boudoir
Tatiana reads a letter from Onegin, which reveals his love for her. Suddenly he stands before her, impatient to know her answer. Tatiana sorrowfully tells him that although she still feels her passionate girlhood love for him, she is now a woman and she could never find happiness with him or have respect for him. She orders him to leave her forever.
In Act 1, Scene 2, the young, innocent Tatiana, deep in the throes of her first love, writes a passionate letter to the object of her affection: the brooding aristocrat from the city, Eugene Onegin. Tatiana’s love letter, which Onegin later passively dismisses, sets off an unstoppable chain of events, culminating in a duel between friends and leaving Onegin forever regretting the love he so casually spurned.
“I write to you – no more confession is needed, nothing’s left to tell. I know it’s now in your discretion with scorn to make my world a hell.
“But, if you’ve kept some faint impression of pity for my wretched state, you’ll never leave me to my fate. At first I thought it out of season to speak; believe me: of my shame you’d not so much as know the name, if I’d possessed the slightest reason to hope that even once a week I might have seen you, heard you speak on visits to us, and in greeting I might have said a word, and then thought, day and night, and thought again about one thing, till our next meeting. But you’re not sociable, they say: you find the country godforsaken; though we... don’t shine in anyway, our joy in you is warmly taken.
“Why did you visit us, but why? Lost in our backwoods habitation I’d not have known you, therefore I would have been spared this laceration. In time, who knows, the agitation of inexperience would have passed, I would have found a friend, another, and in the role of virtuous mother and faithful wife I’d have been cast.
“Another!... No, another never in all the world could take my heart!
Decreed in highest court for ever... heaven’s will – for you I’m
set apart; and my whole life has been directed and pledged to you, and firmly planned;
I know, Godsent one, I’m protected until the grave by your strong hand: you’d
made appearance in my dreaming; unseen, already you were dear, my soul had heard your
voice ring clear, stirred at your gaze, so strange, so gleaming, long, long ago...no,
that could be no dream. You’d scarce arrived, I reckoned to know you, swooned,
and in a second all in a blaze, I said: it’s he!
“You know, it’s true, how I attended, drank in your words when all was still – helping the poor, or while I mended with balm of prayer my torn and rended spirit that anguish had made ill. At this midnight of my condition, was it not you, dear apparition, who in the dark came flashing through and, on my bed-head gently leaning, with love and comfort in your meaning, spoke words of hope? But who are you: the guardian angel of tradition, or some vile agent of perdition sent to seduce? Resolve my doubt. Oh, this could all be false and vain, a sham that trustful souls work out; fate could be something else again...
“So let it be! For you to keep I trust my fate to your direction, henceforth in front of you I weep, I weep, and pray for your protection... Imagine it: quite on my own I’ve no one here who comprehends me, and now a swooning mind attends me, dumb I must perish, and alone. My heart awaits you: you can turn it to life and hope with just a glance – or else disturb my mournful trance with censure – I’ve done all to earn it!
“I close. I dread to read this page... for shame and fear my wits are sliding... and yet your honour is my gauge, and in it boldly I’m confiding”...