Tempted by Div, Prince Igor dreams of "the first glory themselves kidnapped, and back themselves to share".
One can hear the groaning of the Russian lands. Here there is intestine strife – nothing unusual. Murder comes as no surprise. Div is intoxicated by the smell of new blood. The heavens descend. The saints lament murder, but the people do not listen to them.
Princess Yaroslavna, however, has seen a terrifying future through the eyes of the dead.
All of the princes want power, but not all of them will receive it. And Igor's armed force is out for revenge. The young prince inspires them. Their blood boils. The young men join the irregulars and stand before Igor's banner in order to bring themselves honour and glory for the prince. The men of the campaign are assembled. Igor commands them to destroy the enemy – "Praise Igor!"
Yaroslavna has too little time with Igor. She is unable to dissuade her husband who is convinced he is in the right. The prince gives the command for the campaign to commence. Div calls out, anticipating a blood-bath.
The sun vanishes. It is an eclipse.
II. The Black Act
The campaign continues. The army arrives in the darkened Polovtsian lands. The Steppe is stupefying. Here there are glimmers of past disasters and spectres of impending catastrophes. It is terrifying. But the first battle against the Polovtsians delivers an easy victory. Each gets his reward: Igor receives a trophy and the impassioned army can be entertained by the Polovtsian maidens.
But when the warriors fall asleep a maiden carries in a bleeding sacrifice in order to announce her tribe. The Polovtsians' night-time premonitions are proved right. They all merge together in a shamanistic dance and pray to an idol. Div is content.
Upon awakening, the prince knows no peace. Igor convinces the remnants of his army to march onwards.
Suddenly an oasis appears! How their dear friends meet the armed force! Everything the warriors have dreamed of on the road – here it is! Food, drink and women... And the most important gift is for the prince!
But in fact it is an ambush. The second battle is lost ingloriously. The warriors are in the Steppe of death.
The princess feels it: death is all around, but Igor is still alive. The wind brings in Yaroslavna's lament: she is ready to beg the gods, the waters and the earth if only her husband comes back.
Igor is in captivity. The souls of dead warriors fly past in a flurry.
Div is triumphant. He is prepared to arrange an escape so that Igor can assemble a new army.
Yaroslavna is in despair. She is finished. She has neither energy nor hope. The boy promises that he will return. But Igor's return is overcast by grief.
A new conscription is announced. The sword has been forged and the enemy is gathering. Shall we go?
And what will the prayer be about – of future victories or of peace?