The sisters Tatjana and Olga can be heard singing, their voices full of yearning. Their mother, the landlady Larina, shares her reminiscences of her lost illusions with Filipjewna, Tatjana's nanny.
Supported by Olga's fiancé Lenski Larina hands out payments of compensation to her tenants who all have to move out of their lodgings as Larina plans to build a new apartment block. All the former tenants are gathered to say farewell to their house, including Triquet, an old and trusted friend of Tatjana's who is like a father-figure to her.
Lenski introduces his friend Onegin to his fiancée's familiy.
The serious Tatjana seems more attractive to Onegin than her fun-loving sister Olga; and for Tatjana it is love at first sight.
The Filipjewna tries in vain to stop the young girl's infatuation by confronting her with her own story of an arranged and loveless marriage.
Tatjana, however, attempts to express her emotions and inner turmoil by putting it down in writing – a love letter for Onegin.
She succeeds in cajoling Filipjewna to deliver the letter to Onegin.
Onegin, however, rejects her and Tatjana is mortified.
The opening of the newly-erected apartment block is celebrated on Tatjana's name day. Onegin regrets having followed Lenski's invitation when he overhears the gossip about his assumed relationship with Tatjana. The gossiping provokes that High Society dandy Onegin to turn his attentions towards Olga instead.
Triquet steps forward to recite a poem in dedication to Tatjana, but is thrown out of the house in the end, as he is regarded as an unwelcome visitor.
Olga rejects Lenski's claims on her and the enraged Lenski challenges Onegin to a duel.
Onegin arrives at the appointed location – late and without a second. Lenski's second Saretzki tries in vain to stop the unfolding events – Lenski dies.
For three long years Onegin travelled the world without purpose. He then suddenly and unexpectedly meets up again with Tatjana in an exclusive ski ressort: Tatjana is now married to Prince Gremin who, out of his own love for Tatjana, broke all ties with his family. This time, Onegin falls in love with Tatjana.
Onegin begs Tatjana to escape with him. She in return declares that although her love for him still exists, it is now too late – she will not desert her husband.