Prologue

Land of the Berendeys.

Sixteen years ago, Spring Beauty and Frost gave birth to a daughter, Snegurochka the Snow Maiden, and since then the angry solar god Yarilo has not been giving the Earth enough light and warmth.

The Wood-Sprite heralds the approach of Spring Beauty. Surrounded by an escort of birds, she descends. The birds sing and dance to keep warm. The forest is covered with snow, the land is cold.

Frost appears. It's time for him to leave the country of the Berendeys. But who will protect his child? After all, Yarilo is just waiting for an opportunity to ignite the fatal fire of love in the girl’s heart. The parents decide to send their daughter to the Berendey settlement in the care of the childless Bobyl Bakula and his wife Bobylikha. The Snow Maiden is happy: she has long been attracted to people by the wonderful songs of the shepherd Lel. Spring and Frost entrust the Wood-Sprite to guard his daughter.

The Berendeys cheerfully see off Maslenitsa, welcoming the onset of spring. Suddenly Bakula notices an outlandish young lady. To the great joy of Bobyl and Bobylikha, she asks them to take her as their daughter.

Act one

The Snow Maiden lives with Bobyl and Bobylikha, who dream of successfully marrying her off. Lel the shepherd sings at her request, but, hearing the call of the local girls, runs away to them.

Kupava comes to the yearning Snow Maiden. She is in a hurry to share her happiness: the handsome Mizgir loves her, and the wedding is coming soon.

Mizgir himself appears. He arrived with rich gifts to ransom the bride, but suddenly notices the Snow Maiden. Instantly he forgets about his betrothed. He asks the adopt parents of the Snow Maiden to keep the shepherd away from her, giving them rich gifts. Lel leaves the Bobyl yard with tears of resentment. Meanwhile, Kupava summons the people. She curses the offender and wants to drown herself, but Lel stops her. Shocked by the betrayal, the Berendeys advise Kupava to seek the Tsar's help.

Act two

The Royal Palace. Blind guslars praise Berendey the Tsar. He is alarmed: Yarilo the Sun is angry with the Berendeys and does not warm their land; besides, the people have changed, they have lost the ability to love. To appease the Sun, Berendey decides to unite the bridegrooms and brides of his kingdom in marriage at the dawn of Yarilo's festival. Boyar Bermyata tells the Tsar that a maiden named Snegurochka has appeared in the settlement beyond the river and causes quarrels within the romantic couples.

Kupava runs in. She begs for protection. Berendey orders to find the offender and bring him to the Royal court.

Mizgir is brought in. He does not want to marry Kupava as sworn; he is ready to accept the eternal exile in punishment, should the Tsard decide so, but he asks Berendey to meet the Snow Maiden first.

The Tsar is amazed by the Snow Maiden's beauty. Having learned that the girl does not know love, he understands Yarilo’s anger and announces: the man who manages to captivate the Snow Maiden with love before dawn will receive her as his wife. Mizgir asks to delay the exile and promises to kindle the beauty’s untouched heart with love.

Act three

The Berendeys gather in the sacred forest to celebrate Yarilo's Festival with folk round dances. As a reward for the songs, the king invites Lel to choose a pretty girl he likes. The shepherd chooses Kupava, despite the Snow Maiden’s obvious desire to be chosen. Brusilo, a local young man, sings his song after Lel. Meanwhile, Mizgir, having met the Snow Maiden in the forest, begs to heed his burning passion, but his heated speech only frightens the girl. Having come to her defense, the Wood-Sprite bewitches the forest.

Act four

Yarilo's Valley at dawn. The Snow Maiden turns to her mother with a prayer of despair. She wants Spring Beauty to grant her the gift of love. Spring Beauty emerges from the lake, surrounded by flowers, and puts a magic wreath on her daughter.

Now the Snow Maiden knows the feeling of love, and a new meeting with Mizgir ignites her with reciprocal passion. The Sun will soon rise, and, remembering the instructions of her parents, the girl urges her lover to flee from his disastrous rays.

Berendey blesses the brides and grooms. The Snow Maiden and Mizgir also bow to him. But their happiness does not last long: a bright ray of sunlight falls on Mizgir’s chosen one. Sensing her imminent death, she thanks her mother for the sweet gift of love – and melts. Lost in grief, Mizgir throws himself from a cliff into the lake. But the wise Berendey is calm: the death of the Snow Maiden will soften Yarilo’s anger and restore the balance of power in nature; Frost will no longer be able to torment the Berendeys with cold weather. Lel sings a hymn to the Sun, and everyone joins in.