The town of Putivl. The residents of the town gather in the square in front of the cathedral. They have come to watch Prince Igor with his army depart in their campaign against the Polovtsy. The people and the boyars cheer on the prince, his son Vladimir and the army with the parting words: “Victory to Rus, let our foemen bleed, disperse them as once before at Oltava”.
The army is ready to depart, but suddenly the light fades and a solar eclipse begins. The people look at the sky in astonishment and read the eclipse as an ominous sign: “Oh wait a while before you march. Do not go yet. Oh tarry Prince, tarry a while”. But the Prince is not prepared to change his mind: “What God’s sign in the heavens forebodes — or good or ill, we soon shall know… But since none can elude his fate what have we then to fear? We go forth in a righteous cause, to fight for faith, for home, for Rus!”
The sky becomes light again. Igor, accompanied by the other princes and boyars, walks along the rows of soldiers and vigilantes. Two gudok players, Skula and Eroshka, slip away and desert the army. Igor says goodbye to his wife Yaroslavna. She begs her husband to abandon the campaign but Igor remains firm: duty and honour call. His son Vladimir Igorevich and Yaroslavna’s brother, Vladimir Galitsky (Prince of Galich), second him. Igor leaves Galitsky as temporary deputy in Putivl and orders him to look after the princess, to be her protection and support. Galitsky gives his word: he is in a debt of gratitude to Igor for sheltering him in Putivl when he was banished from Galich by his father and brothers.
Yaroslavna, the princesses and the wives of the boyars leave. An elder approaches from the cathedral and blesses the army. The troops depart with Igor leading the way.
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