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date: 15 November 2019

Story of a Real Man, The [Povest’ o nastoyashchem cheloveke]locked

  • Richard Taruskin

Extract

[Povest’ o nastoyashchem cheloveke]

Opera in four acts, op.117, by Sergey Prokofiev to a libretto by the composer and Mira Alexandrovna Mendelson (Prokof’yeva) after Boris Polevoy’s novella (1946); Leningrad, Kirov Theatre, 3 December 1948 (closed run-through without sets or costumes); first public performance, Moscow, Bol’shoy Theatre, 8 October 1960.

Serving as a wartime correspondent (in which role he makes an ‘appearance’ in the last scene of Prokofiev’s opera), Boris Polevoy became acquainted at the Kursk battlefront with Alexey Meres’yov, a flyer who had lost both his legs in a crash, yet managed to return to active duty with the help of a double prosthesis. Later, at the Nuremberg Trials, Polevoy heard Hermann Göring testify that the Germans lost the war because they did not know the Russians, ‘who have always been and remain a riddle for the West’. The author came to conceive of Alexey Meres’yov’s story – so he later wrote – as a sort of answer to the riddle; this was the inspiration for one of the great Soviet bestsellers of the immediate postwar period....

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