Sadko finds himself at the feast in a rich house of the Novgorod merchants’s guild. Guild leaders order a song in praise of heroic deeds. Nezhata, a young guslar, sings for them. Unable to hold his tongue at the table, Sadko admonishes the merchants for their clinging to the antique traditions and vain boasting. Affronted by Sadko’s accusations, the merchants angrily banish him from the feast.


Sadko comes to the shore of Lake Ilmen. Surprised to see a beautiful girl appear there, he desperately tries to find out her identity. The girl reveals her secret to him: she is Princess Volkhova, the youngest daughter of the Sea Tsar and Tsarina Hydraqua. Her beauty enchants Sadko into total oblivion. Volkhova promises to help Sadko and tells him about the three magic goldfishes he will capture once he goes fishing in Lake Ilmen with his net. These fishes will make Sadko rich and prosperous.


Sadko arrives at his wife’s, Lubava Buslaevna. She has waited for him all night long and rushes to embrace him, but he turns her down. Sadko has made up his mind to go to the harbour and make a bet that there are three goldfishes in Lake Ilmen.


The harbour of Novgorod hosts a boisterous market. Sadko challenges the guild leaders to bet there is goldfish in Lake Ilmen. The guild leaders mock him, so he raises the stakes and bets his life against all the guildsmen’s wares. The leaders take the bet. Sadko casts his net, the crowd impatiently anticipating the result. Volkhova’s promise is fulfilled: three living goldfishes are agonizing in Sadko’s net, eventually turning into pure gold. Sadko is rich now and subject to everyone’s praises. Exalted, Sadko decides to summon a band of brave men and equip ships. He asks foreign merchants to tell him about the distant lands to choose where to set sail to.


Sadko is in despair. Before his eyes there are hopeless scenes of his ship standing still in the high seas and his men throwing barrels of gold, silver, and pearls overboard as a toll to the Sea Tsar so that he would release the ship to join the rest of the fleet. Sadko supposes the Sea Tsar is up to a human sacrifice and suggests that they should cast lots to choose a victim to be drowned. The band agrees, and the lot is drawn by Sadko himself. Solemnly heading to his death, Sadko suddenly hears Volkhova’s voice.


Sadko and Volkhova are in the underwater realm before the Sea Tsar and Tsarina Hydraqua. The Tsar orders Sadko to sing a glorifying song, and the singing is so much to his taste that he offers Sadko to stay for good and marry Volkhova. Sadko plays his gusli, and the seafolk dance frantically. Amidst the celebrations Vision the old mighty warrior appears and stops the dance, ordering the Sea Tsar to let Volkhova go away with Sadko.


Sadko is asleep to the sound of Volkhova’s lullaby. Volkhova bids him farewell forever. Awake, all Sadko can hear is Lubava’s wailing. Everyone gathers to greet Sadko.

Dmitri Tcherniakov