St. Petersburg 1915. The Romanov rule of the Russian Empire is at the peak of it's glory. Outside St Petersburg the army, led by Dmitri Romanov (the nephew of the Tsar), suppress an uprising in a small town. Later Dmitri is hosting a ball at the Winter Palace, during which he declares his love for his cousin, Princess Irina. Irina's protestations are interrupted by the arrival of a Holy Man begging for money. Dmitri threatens to kill him if he does not leave. The man laughs, prophesying that if he is killed by a Romanov the Royal family will be slaughtered and Russia will bleed for a lifetime. He leaves and a shaken Dmitri announces that he and Irina are to be married. Irina is horrified as he sweeps her off to celebrate at the Aquariam Cabaret. There the M.C. introduces the evening's entertainment -a singer of exquisite poise and beauty. The singer entrances Dmitri. Only later, after their first kiss, does the singer reveal "herself" to be Prince Yusupov, the richest man in Russia and much despised by the Romanovs for his hedonistic life-style. Dmitri is repelled and intrigued. Some days later, the Holy Man arrives at Yusupov's palace. He is Grigor Rasputin. Yusupov is overwhelmed by his charisma, especially when Rasputin proves his extraordinary power by healing the Tsarina's haemophiliac son, Alexis. Yusupov reflects on his own need for help. Rapsutin observes that they are forever bound in the eternal cycle of good and evil. When Yusupov is at his most vulnerable, Rasputin leaves him -he has taken all he needs from the Prince. Yusupov now understands what it means to be betrayed. The act ends with Yusupov declaring his love to an astonished Irina as Rasputin manipulates the Tsarina and begins to accent his power.
Germany, 1916. Dmitri is fighting in the trenches in WW1. After reading Irina's letter, Dmitri longs to be killed. In St Petersburg Yusupov has converted part of his palace into a hospital for the war-wounded. Irina is helping him to tend the injured. As they work, they realise how much they need each other. Dmitri is carried into the hospital, badly wounded. Yusupov leaves to see the Tsarina to try to put a stop to the slaughter. With Yusupov so changed, and Dmitri back in Russia, Irina reflects on what she wants. Yusupov begs the Tsarina to see what Rasputin is doing to Russia, but she is blinded by gratitude for what he has done for her son. Yusupov then tells Dmitri that to save Russia they must kill Rasputin. But Dmitri only wants to retreat into the memory of what his world once was. While the M.C. ironically muses on the closeness of Tsarina's relationship with Rasputin, the people of St Petersburg are losing patience with the system that has oppressed them for so long. Aware that time is running out, Yusupov invites Rasputin to his palace using the one bait he knows Rasputin cannot resist -Irina. Yusupov prepares himself for what he believes to be his finest moral act -the Killing of Rasputin.