Moscow. The early spring of 1775. The house of Count Alexei Grigorievich Orlov. Count Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov, due to the fact that he is in the retinue of Empress Catherine, who comes to Moscow, gets an opportunity to see her brother. He finds his brother drunk and all kinds of amusements. Alex flirting with women, the other day fighting with someone. Gregory shames his brother, and he says that his longing takes, boredom in Moscow, there is no business for the hero Cesma. Grigory also believes that Alexei was too early to wake up – the time is alarming, even the air is filled with malice: the more merits, the more enemies. Gregory tells his brother that Catherine has changed to him: before the minute she considered until their meeting, and now she is calm and condescending, even
Catherine’s study. She has Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova. Her son completed a course in Edinburgh, and she asks permission to spend with him in Europe the time it takes to complete his education. Catherine is not happy about this, but promises to think. When they report about Aleksei Orlov, Dashkova is swiftly leaving: she does not tolerate this person, since it is the wife of Catherine’s wife.
Catherine talks to Orlov about a woman who calls herself Elizaveta Petrovna’s daughter from Alexei Razumovsky. She lives in Rome, writes letters to the Sultan, the Pope, the Russian fleet, while subscribing to Elizabeth of all Russia. Catherine is very concerned about this. The revolt of Pugachev has just been suppressed, but “the fire is still smoldering under the ashes”, Pugachev had companions and sympathizers in all strata of society. She is afraid that the appearance of this woman can lead to great trouble, so Catherine orders Alexei Orlov to grab her and bring her here. If you can not do without noise, then it allows you
Pisa. The house of Lombardi, a wealthy merchant, many guests. Everyone is discussing Elizabeth. She enters with Pietro Boniperti, her secretary, who is madly in love with her and sincerely devoted to her. Everyone considers it his duty to tell her something pleasant, flattering, somehow support her. Elizabeth of all thanks and says that she immensely needs friends, since she lost a lot in her life. Padre Paolo, a Jesuit, warns her that in Pisa, Count Orlov. Elizabeth is represented by Carlo Gozzi, who tells her about her plays. Appear Alexei Orlov and poet Kustov, a drunkard, whom Orlov sheltered at home. Elizabeth is amazed: she imagined Orlova to others. She feels the long-awaited change in her destiny. Boniperti asks her not to tempt fate. Alexei is presented to her. Because she wants to talk without witnesses, Elizabeth invites him to his house on Via Condotti, says she is immensely happy. Alexei echoes it.
Elizabeth’s house on Via Condotti. Evening. She is waiting for Alexei. Boniperti once again tells her about her feelings and warns that Orlov will not put everything he has for her at stake, as he did once, because then he had nothing to lose. Elizabeth tells him that it’s too late to change anything. Appears Alex. He calls Elizabeth with him, home, promising to help her achieve the throne. Elizabeth, who is sure that Alexey loves her, agrees to go. On the ship, Alexey plays the wedding with the help of disguised sailors. Shrubs trying to shame him. Alexei is furious, and he is silent. Sailors play the wedding. Elizabeth is sure that now they are married.
Peter-Pavel’s Fortress. Prince Golitsyn persuades Elizabeth to change her mind and admit everything. Elizabeth persists and asks for an audience with the empress. Then Golitsyn passes it to the hands of Sheshkovsky, who is going to torture her. He tells her that Orlov rode after her on the orders of Catherine, that there was no wedding, that their mummified sailor crowned them. Elizabeth refuses to believe him.
Hall next to the chambers of Catherine. Catherine allows Dashkova to leave for her son. Both remember the past and hope that their next meeting will be happier. When Dashkova leaves, Grigory Orlov appears. He complains and is angry that Catherine did not entrust him with such an important matter for her. The Empress replies to him that he is too kind, and here a solid heart was required. Gregory hints at the inconstancy of Catherine. The same explains to him that “courage and beauty… from a boy do not make a husband.” She needs a man capable of great things, because “to a great power, stagnation is more dangerous than defeat.” She advises Gregory to follow the example of Dashkova and go to Europe. Gregory leaves.
Instead, Alexei appears. Catherine blames him that “having separated from a wenchful girl”, “has fallen out of grief.” Alexei says that he is already well. Catherine orders him to interrogate Elizabeth. Alex refuses. Then Catherine hits him in the face. As she says, this is Orlov’s reward from her, as from a woman. To reward, like the Empress, she calls Alexei in the inner chambers.
Peter-Pavel’s Fortress. Golitsyn tells Elizabeth that Catherine sent a letter in which she refused to attend and reminds that if she persists in lies, she will be betrayed to the strictest and most severe court. Alexei enters. They are left alone. Elizabeth asks him to say that everything she heard about him is slander. Alexey does not deny that all this is true. He says that he would have become a traitor if he had violated the oath and the word given to the empress. Elizabeth is terrified. She does not believe that you can keep the word given to the homosexual. Elizabeth curses Alexei and drives him away, asking him to tell “his sovereign” that the human trial is not terrible for her, and she is not afraid of God’s judgment, because she is pure before Him. Alexei leaves. Elizabeth calls him by name, shouts after him that his child is already breathing in it.
Moscow. House of Alexei Orlov. Both brothers drink and listen to the singing of gypsies. Gregory came to say goodbye: he goes to Europe. Alexey also wanted to go with him, but now he changed his mind. Gregory leaves. Alexei drinks everything and says that the imposture of the kingdom is ruined. Shrubs also reminds Elizabeth and says that people are stupid. He is going to leave Orlov. The gypsies sing. Alexei orders them to sing louder. He hears the voice of Elizabeth, who calls him. He sits looking at one point, his ears closed with his fists.