Scene 1 Madame Larina’s Garden
Madame Larina, Olga and the nurse are finishing the party dresses and gossiping about Tatyana’s coming birthday festivities. Madame Larina speculates on the future. Girls from the neighbourhood arrive and play an old folk game: whoever looks into the mirror will see her beloved.
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. Tatyana, 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 only a coltish girl who reads too many romantic novels.
Scene 2 Tatyana’s bedroom
Tatyana, her imagination aflame with impetuous first love, dreams of Onegin and writes him a passionate love letter, which she gives to the nurse to deliver.
Scene 1 Tatyana’s birthday
The provincial gentry have come out to celebrate Tatyana’s birthday. Onegin finds the company boring. Stifling his yawns, he finds it difficult to be civil; furthermore he is irritated by Tatyana’s letter, which he regards merely as an outburst of adolescent love. In a quiet moment, he seeks out Tatyana and, telling her that he cannot love her, tears up her letter. Instead of awakening pity, Tatyana’s distress merely increases his irritation. Prince Gremin, a distant relative, appears. He is in love with Tatyana, and Madame Larina hopes for a brilliant match; but Tatyana, troubled with her own heart, hardly notices her kind relative. Onegin, in his boredom, decides to provoke Lensky by flirting with Olga, who lightheartedly joins in the teasing. But Lensky takes the matter with passionate seriousness. He challenges Onegin to a duel.
Scene 2 The duel
Tatyana and Olga try to reason with Lensky, but his high romantic ideals have been shattered by the betrayal of his friend and the fickleness of his beloved; he insists that the duel take place. Onegin kills his friend.
Scene 1 St Petersburg
Years later, Onegin, having travelled the world in an attempt to escape from his own sense of futility, returns to St Petersburg, where he is received at a ball in the palace of Prince Gremin. Gremin has married, and Onegin is astonished to recognise, in the stately and elegant young princess, Tatyana, the uninteresting little country girl whom he once turned away. The enormity of his mistake and loss engulfs him; his life seems even more aimless and empty.
Scene 2 Tatyana’s boudoir
Onegin has written to Tatyana, revealing his love and asking to see her, but she does not wish to meet him. She pleads in vain with her unsuspecting husband not to leave her alone this evening. Onegin comes and declares his love for her. In spite of her emotional turmoil, Tatyana realises that Onegin’s change of heart has come too late. Before his eyes, she tears up his letter and orders him to leave her forever.