The music of Tchaikovsky brings Pushkin's legendary melancholic to life once again, this time as a ballet by choreographer John Cranko. Much too late to avoid paying the price for stifled and destroyed human lives, Onegin realises that love can awaken the soul and give meaning to life. Tatiana's waves of passion and suffering ultimately block a path to redemption littered with ripped-up love letters.
Scene 1: The garden of Madame Larina’s house The inhabitants of the house are preparing for Tatyana’s birthday. Olga is dancing with her friends while Tatyana is reading. The young girls begin a charming old game: if one looks into a mirror she will see her love. The superstition is realised for the joyful Olga, who sees her fiancé Lensky. When the dreamy Tatyana glimpses into the mirror, she sees Onegin, whom Lensky has invited to the Larin estate to introduce him. The girl falls in love with the stranger at first sight. Olga and Lensky dance a happy pas de deux. Tatyana walks with Onegin in the garden, but the conceited visitor from the city is cold and reserved; he ignores the girl completely.
Scene 2: Tatyana’s bedroom Tatyana is writing a letter to Onegin, confessing her passionate love to the man she hardly knows. While writing, she falls asleep. In her dream, her desire comes true: she catches sight of Onegin in the mirror, and, this time, he reciprocates her love.
Scene 1: Madame Larina’s house Onegin and Lensky have been invited to Tatyana’s birthday. She is nervous, yearning to receive a reply to her letter. When she is alone with Onegin, he brashly hurts her feelings by tearing the letter to pieces in his wrath. The merciless Onegin later wounds the soul of the girl in love again when he begins to court Olga with scandalously spectacular zeal. Prince Gremin, an old friend of the Larins, arrives at the celebration and dances with Tatyana. The girl is watching Onegin during the dance but she must be disappointed: The object of her affections devotes all his attention to Olga. The furious Lensky demands redress and challenges his friend to a duel.
Scene 2: A desolate park Tatyana and Olga are begging to Lensky to cancel the duel. Onegin is ready to reconcile, but his deeply hurt friend is adamant. At the duel, Onegin kills Lensky.
Scene 1: Prince Gremin’s ball, ten years later. Tatyana is married to Prince Gremin. The prince holds a ball where Onegin appears. The man of the world who has seen only disappointment now realises that lost the only true love of his life when he refused Tatyana. When he sees Tatyana – now Princess Gremina – he hopes to revive her old feelings. But Tatyana turns away from him.
Scene 2: Tatyana’s boudoir Onegin announces himself to the princess in a letter. Tatyana wants to avoid meeting him and asks her husband not to leave her alone that night. Onegin confesses his love to her passionately. Tatyana’s soul is tormented as old emotions have not entirely faded. Eventually, common sense wins out: she rejects the man’s advances and – paying back the old debt – tears his letter to pieces.