The Story of a Real Man

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The Story of a Real Man (Russian: Повесть о настоящем человеке, Povest' o nastoyashchem cheloveke) is an opera in four acts by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, his opus 117.[1] It was written from 1947 to 1948,[2] and was his last opera.

The libretto, by the composer and Mira Mendelson, is based on the novel of the same name by Boris Polevoy; this in turn was based on the story of pilot Alexey Maresyev. The opera received its premiere on 3 December 1948 at the Kirov Theatre, Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). The audience was made up of Soviet cultural officials who gave the work a poor reception. This was a great disappointment to the composer who had intended the opera to rehabilitate his reputation with the Communist authorities after he had been accused of "formalism" earlier in the year. As a result, performances of The Story of a Real Man were forbidden to the general public until after Prokofiev's death. It received its public premiere on 7 October 1960 at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, closed rehearsal
3 December 1948[3]
(Conductor: Boris Khaykin)
Leningrad, Kirov
Bolshoi Cast, public premiere
8 October 1960
(Conductor: Mark Ermler)
Studio recording, 1961
Alexey Maresyev, pilot baritone Yevgeny Kibkalo
Andrei Dzhegtyarenko, pilot bass Georgi Pankov
Klaudiya Michailovna, nurse contralto Kira Leonova
Konstantin Kukushkin, pilot tenor Alexei Maslennikov
Grandfather Mihailov tenor Georgi Shulpin
Olga, Alexey's fiancée soprano Glafira Deomidova
Commissar Semyon Vorobyev baritone / bass Artur Eizen
Sinocka soprano Maria Zvenzdina
Varya mezzo-soprano Margarita Miglau
Surgeon Vasilyevich bass Mark Reshetin
Grandmother Vasilissa contralto Vera Smirnova


The story is set during the Second World War. Alexei, a Soviet fighter pilot, is shot down in combat against the Germans and badly wounded. He is rescued and cared for by villagers from a collective farm before being transferred to a hospital, where both his legs are amputated. He is inspired by the thought of his girlfriend and the support of his fellow patients, one of whom tells him the story of a First World War ace who continued to fly after losing one of his legs. The opera ends with Alexei taking to the air again in his new plane.


Source: Recordings of The Story of a Real Man on

  • Yevgeny Kibkalo (as Alexei), Glafira Deomidova (as Olga). Chorus and Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre, dir. Mark Ermler. Studio recording, 1961, Moscow, based on 1960 Bolshoi Theatre production CHANDOS CHAN 10002 (2CD, with libretto in Cyrillic, and translations). The recording contains some cuts.[4]


  1. ^ "Schirmer Page for Prokofiev Opera Opus 117". Retrieved 2009-01-04..
  2. ^ Nestyev, Israel V.; transl. Jonas, Florence (1961). Prokofiev at Google Books. Stanford University Press. pp. 402-4, 411, 512. ISBN 0-8047-0585-2.
  3. ^ Amadeus Almanac, accessed 4 January 2009
  4. ^ see Review by Rob Barnett
  • Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4