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).

Gruppo del Laocoonte (CC BY 2.0)

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.
Claude Debussy

(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.
(Bell. Blackout.)



  1. Debussy, Les soirs illumines par l'ardeur du charbon - listen on YouTube.