Villagers are gathering for the winter solstice celebration. The light of the Christmas star, that flashes in the sky, illuminates everyone around. The children joyfully meet Vertep that will tell the tragic story of Kateryna. Death, the Devil, the Witch, the Gypsy, Shinkarka, the Angel and a lyre player Perebendya perform ancient Ukrainian rites, accompanying them with dances and songs playing ancient musical instruments. Their magic fills the entire stage, metaphorically turning it into a space of life.
After the winter comes the spring. The girls are greeting it with Vesnianka. Nature blossoms and so does the love of Kateryna and Ivan.
The blooming summer comes. The sun sets near a forest lake, it’s getting dark. Mermaids and other mystical creatures frolic and cast spells on the moon. In the moonlight, the Witch and her minions are playing games.
Young people are celebrating Kupala Night. Among them are Ivan and Kateryna. Girls flow flower wreaths in the water to find a couple. The ceremony is followed by jumping over the bonfire and burning a straw effigy.
Vertep is transforming summer into autumn and continues telling the story of Kateryna.
The autumn fair is raging with colours. Kateryna’s parents are also here. Having noticed them, the villagers are singing shameful songs trying to humiliate and insult the old people. Mother feels sick and, in despair, the father curses the community. The lyre player Perebendya and his Vertep companions are trying to settle the conflict and harmonise the space.
Late autumn. Kateryna is singing a lullaby to the baby. The whole house gets filled with zlydzens. The exhausted parents appear. They kick out their disgraced daughter together with the child. Kateryna sets out on a long wandering path, accompanied by the Angel. The unfortunate girl goes to look for her beloved, hoping for his love and faithfulness.
Soldiers led by Ivan are marching through the winter field. Death is dancing its ritual dance while they are being swept away by a blizzard.
Fate brings exhausted Kateryna to a tavern where she can eat and spend the night. Ivan and the soldiers arrive at the same tavern. Kateryna recognizes her beloved and tries to regain his affection. Ivan rejects her and orders the soldiers to “kick the madwoman away”.
In despair, Kateryna abandons the child and runs to the forest lake to drown. The mermaids would be happy to accept her into their family, but Death does not agree with the girl’s decision. Kateryna insists, and eventually, Death grants her peace.
Disconcerted villagers and Vertep characters prophesy the fate of the orphan, Kateryna’s little son.
Опера виконується з одним антрактом.
Лібрето Олександра Родіна за поемою Тараса Шевченка.