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.
TIME Anytime during Kim Jong-il’s regime (1994 - 2011).
PLACE 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 and literature. Kim Jong-il
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.)
LIBRETTIST [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 no bounds.
[5. 00:30] Oh the war, the cold, the scramble for coal, this life of miseries drags me down more and more every day.
[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.