S,M,T,3Bar,2B; chorus; ballet;
On-stage: fl.bn-2tpt-strings(no violas)
From their exile in Livorno, the Polish count Tchernomsky and his wife are agitating against the Russian tsarina Catherine II who has numerous enemies due to her German origin and her aggressive policy against Poland. Their agent is the beautiful princess Tarakanova whom they have convinced, with the help of a forged will, that she is the daughter of the late tsarina Elizabeth and that she has a rightful claim to the Russian throne. The Polish conspirators get support from members of the nobility and the army, among them the Pole Krasinsky, a lieutenant of the Russian navy who is unconditionally devoted to the princess. The tsarina is informed of the conspiracy and orders Admiral Orlov to abduct the princess Tarakanova. Orlov manages to make the group of conspirators believe that he is on the side of the countess and is preparing their march into St. Petersburg with the help of the insurgent navy. Tchernomsky, the only one who is still suspicious, is done away with at a reception of the British consul. In the meantime, the countess has fallen in love with Orlov, making it easy for him to entice her onto his ship. There he tells her and Krasinsky the truth. When Krasinsky realizes that his cause is lost, he takes his own life with a pistol.