Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Did North Korea Lose Their Leading Opera Composer?

“Opera is the art of song, the art of action and the art of life.” Kim Jong Il
The North Korean Sea of Blood Opera Company, seen here on a tour to China, credits Mr. Kim
with helping to establish and direct productions.
Kim Jong-il (née Yuri Irsenovich Kim), the supreme leader of North Korea, died on December 17. He was the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, the ruling party since 1948, Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea, and the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, the fourth-largest standing army in the world. According to Kim's official biography, he composed six operas over two years and also enjoyed staging elaborate musicals. "In 1974 Kim wrote The Art of Opera, in which he set out his principals that Korean opera to be full of "stanzaic songs, which can be understood easily and loved by the people." He continues: "In conventional operas, the personalities of the characters were abstract, their acting clumsy, and the flow of the drama tedious." The book describes how Kim and his dad, the late Great Leader Kim Il Sung, took the husk of a tired art form and gave it a much-needed shot of North Korean communism. Similarly, in a speech to musicians in 1968, Kim
Opera composer and "Dear Leader"
said that music must serve the revolution and not be based on 'uproarious Western music.' Kim said he had initially thought that the song 'Kim Il Sung is our Sun' sounded good in D major. But his father steered him in the right direction, advising E major as better for expressing emotions richly. One of the final accounts of Kim’s musical side came in 2009 when the KCNA news agency reported that he assisted at the rehearsal of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at Pyongyang's conservatory, giving guidance to the director and performers. The Dear Leader praised the teachers’ and students’ efforts to perform an opera of high artistic value, and stressed that the Korean people should get a better understanding of world culture."

"In the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] there are five revolutionary operas, all created in the early 1970s, which have been termed in North Korea as ‘immortal classics.’ In order of production date these are Sea of Blood, The Flower Girl, A True Daughter of the Party, Tell O’ the Forest! and The Song of Mt. Kumgang." [Source, Source, Source, Source, Source]

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