An eclipse foreshadows Prince Igor’s journey into battle against the Khans with a bad omen, but Igor does not listen to the superstitions of his wife. He leaves her under the protection of Prince Galitsky, unaware of Galitsky’s reputation.. When news arrives that Prince Igor has been captured, any thoughts of a rescue mission are immediately thwarted, as Khan Gzak’s forces launch an attack on the town.
Meanwhile, in the Polovtsian camp, Khan Konchak offers Prince Igor every luxury he has at his disposal, celebrating this opportunity to talk about peace with wine and dances. With Prince Igor distracted, his son, Vladimir, takes the opportunity to visit Konchakovna, the Khan’s daughter. They are deeply in love, and desperate to be married, but Konchakovna is worried that Vladimir’s father will refuse.
Khan Gzak and his soldiers return to the Polovtsian camp, claiming a great victory; they have destroyed Prince Igor’s home town. Igor is eager to return home, and accepts assistance from Ovlur, who is an outsider amongst his people.
At the sight of the men returning on horseback, the town bells are set ringing and everyone celebrates the return of their ruler. His son is lost to the Polovtsians, but Prince Igor has returned to protect his home and his wife.
As Borodin’s only opera, Prince Igor is an important piece in the canon of Russian opera. It showcases many elements of traditional music, including its famous Polovtsian dances, as well as grand choruses, and incredibly beautiful vocal writing, in a story of war, religion, honor, and love.