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Bohuslav Martinů: What Men Live by (one act opera)

Author: Czech Television

Martinů´s opera tells a story about a cobbler who is waiting for Jesus and when he does not appear the cobbler decides to help others instead.

  • What Men Live by | Copyright: © Czech Television

    What Men Live by © Czech Television

The television opera “What Men Live by” in one act was created in 1952 in New York. The English libretto was written by composer Bohuslav Martinů according to the Lev Tolstoy’s "The Old Shoemaker” short story.

The setting is a small town, where the cobbler Martin Avdeitch, a widower whose child has also died, works in a small basement from which he can see the street. He knows most of the passers-by from their shoes, which he has repeatedly mended. One day an old peasant came to him and Martin had told him of his wish to die. The peasant told him to live as Christ has shown us how. He reads the gospel story of Jesus visiting a home unrecognised, and wonders how he would himself receive Christ. He hears a voice announcing a visitor the next day. Early in the morning, he sees Stepanitch, a shabby old soldier, clearing snow outside. Martin invites him in for some tea and to warm himself. The old man is grateful for this act of kindness. After he has gone Martin sees a poorly dressed woman with a child. He invites them in and gives her an old jacket. She weeps and thanks him, then leaves. Lastly he sees a boy trying to steal an apple from an old pedlar woman, who catches him. Martin runs to them and persuades the old woman not to call the police, and the boy to ask pardon. He himself pays for the apple. The boy offers to carry the old woman's bag for her. Gradually evening sets in, and Martin takes down the Bible to read. Joy fills Martin's soul.

The new production of the Czech television will be presented at Golden Prague festival on 21st September 2018.

Genre pastoral television opera in one act
Duration 42´
Production Company Czech television
Co-Producer Bohuslav Martinů Foundation Prague
Director Jiri Nekvasil
Conductor Jiri Belohlavek
Orchestra / Band Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Choir Martinů Voices

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