The following play Evenings Illuminated by the Ardour of Coal – librettino for CCTV, is the third part of Con Forza, variations on music and power in four parts. (Parts I, II, IV).
LIBRETTIST A disgraced North Korean opera librettist, some weeks
into his solitary confinement.
ACCOMPANIST Pianist, either offstage or beneath/to one side of the screen.
Anytime during Kim Jong-il’s regime (1994 - 2011).
A cell in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The audience sees and hears a live b&w CCTV feed. The cell itself
is a box backstage.
The Accompanist plays Debussy’s Les soirs illuminés par l’ardeur
du charbon. The bar numbers, and suggested timings based on Jean-
Efflam Bavouzet’s 2007 Chandos recording,1 are in square brackets.
There is nothing for the working class to adopt from the old art
Two associated dreams: there is the ideal.
(Under harsh light the LIBRETTIST
sleeps huddled on the floor of a
cell barely bigger than a box.)
(Woken by a bell, he looks up at the camera.
The ACCOMPANIST begins Debussy’s “Les soirs
illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon” over
which the Prisoner speaks.)
[2. 00:05] Piano, piano, Chouchou! A sack of coal? Fetch
papa’s manuscript paper, my poppet; I must compose a token
of gratitude to the merchant; the people’s generosity knows
[5. 00:30] Oh the war, the cold, the scramble for coal,
this life of miseries drags me down more and more every
[9. 00:42] Let us never forget The Paris Commune, whose
martyrs are eternally enshrined in the great heart of the
working class, for among its unsung heroes stands a
courageous captain, proud father of dear leading composer
Claude Achille Debussy. [13. 01:04] Let us forever recall
the revolutionary lineage of harmonious freedom fighters
whose loyal and self-sufficient sons deserve favour always.
[19. 01:35] Final night. Must end soon.
[20. 01:42] As cannon pound the peaceful land the artist is
laid low at last.
(The music ends.)
He is on his way to where flowers of tranquility bloom.
1. Debussy, Les soirs illumines par l'ardeur du charbon - listen on YouTube.
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