What Men Live By (opera)

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What Men Live By (Čím člověk žije in Czech) is an opera in one act by Bohuslav Martinů to an English[1] libretto by the composer, based on the story by Leo Tolstoy. It was composed in 1951-1952 when the composer was living in the U.S.A.[1]

Performance history[edit]

The opera was premiered as a television broadcast in New York in May 1953,[1] the first staged performance took place on 31 July 1954 in Interlochen, Michigan, by the National Music Camp company.[2]


Role[2] Voice type[2] Premiere Cast
31 July 1954
(Conductor: )
Martin Avdeitch, a cobbler baritone
An old peasant pilgrim bass
Stepanitch, an old soldier bass
A woman with a child soprano
An old woman contralto
A boy spoken role
Speaker (narrator) tenor


The orchestral score requires 1 flute, 2 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 1 trumpet, 1 trombone, timpani, percussion (various instruments), piano and strings (6 violins I, 6 violins II, 4 violas, 3 violoncellos, 2 double basses). Apart from the vocal soloists, a small chorus (or a vocal quartet or quintet) is also required.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Smaczny, Jan (1997) [1992]. "Martinů, Bohuslav". The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. 3. London: Macmillan Reference Limited. p. 238. ISBN 1-56159-228-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Bohuslav Martinu - What Men Live By - Opera". Boosey & Hawkes. Retrieved 17 July 2011.