La notte di Yalda

(or The House of Fireflies)

J’ai embrassé l’aube d’été

— Arthur Rimbaud

Poetry and music

Poetry is music: a chain of words with their own rhythms and cadenzas. I’ve read once that poetry is absolute, it doesn’t need anything else. That might be true.

But then again, Garcia Lorca would not have set some of his own poems to music. Besides, I’ve always thought that art is not made for restrictions or boundaries.

Subjects like love and death have been set to words, music and all other artforms countless times. They are the only true immortal topics that keep speaking to us generation after generation.

We marvel at Shakespeare‘s depiction of love and death in Romeo and Juliet still 500 years after it was written; we are in awe in front of Neruda‘s greatness in depicting love through its multiple nuances; and we still read Verlaine and Rimbaud and Baudelaire because our souls cannot get away from the deep and sheer thought that our life is a whirlpool of emotions, running frantically from death but sinking inevitably in it.


The story is quite simple and comes from a few different Persian myths. I’m not trying to tell the story of a myth in particular here, more to use bits and pieces of them as a fil rouge, connecting the different poems that I chose.

On his quest for glory, Angra, god of Death, kills in anger his wife Ishtar, goddess of Love,  accusing her to be an impediment to his grandeur. Chased by the ghost of his dead wife, Angra’s journey exposes his flaws, from greed to lust to jealousy.

In the end, he realizes he’s been after everything that’s unimportant: sitting on a rock he mourns his lost love in such a painful way that a well nearby hears him and, moved to pity, reveals itself as Ishtar. The two are reconciled in a love duet that lasts only the time of a dream. Ishtar dies again in his arms, vanishing in water and he’s left forever alone.

Yalda’s night – the longest night of the year celebrated as a Persian festivity on the winter solstice – becomes eternal and time, the only valuable currency to human beings, turns into Angra’s prison.



[…] Adorable sorcière, aimes-tu les damnés?

Dis, connais-tu l’irrémissible?

Connais-tu le Remords, aux traits empoisonnés,

À qui notre coeur sert de cible?

Adorable sorcière, aimes-tu les damnés?


L’Irréparable ronge avec sa dent maudite

Notre âme, piteux monument,

Et souvent il attaque ainsi que le termite,

Par la base le bâtiment.

L’Irréparable ronge avec sa dent maudite!


— J’ai vu parfois, au fond d’un théâtre banal

Qu’enflammait l’orchestre sonore,

Une fée allumer dans un ciel infernal

Une miraculeuse aurore;

J’ai vu parfois au fond d’un théâtre banal


Un être, qui n’était que lumière, or et gaze,

Terrasser l’énorme Satan;

Mais mon coeur, que jamais ne visite l’extase,

Est un théâtre où l’on attend

Toujours. toujours en vain, l’Etre aux ailes de gaze!


— Charles Baudelaire


Mi corazón oprimido

siente junto a la alborada

el dolor de sus amores

y el sueño de las distancias.


La luz de la aurora lleva

semilleros de nostalgias

y la tristeza sin ojos

de la médula del alma.


La gran tumba de la noche

su negro velo levanta

para ocultar con el dia

la inmensa cumbre estrellada.


¡Qué haré yo sobre estos campos

cogiendo nidos y ramas,

rodeado de la aurora

y llena de noche el alma!


¡Qué haré si tienes tus ojos

muertos a las luces claras

y no ha de sentir mi carne

el calor de tus miradas!


¿Por qué te perdí por siempre

en aquella tarde clara?

Hoy mi pecho está reseco

como una estrella apagada.


— Federico Garcia Lorca


Ishtar appears as a goddess in many ancient myths: worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, she was in fact known as Inanna by the Sumerians.

As it often happens, different myths are in contrast with one another; they all have in common, though, the representation of Ishtar as the goddess of Love. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Ishtar demands Gilgamesh to become her consort and, when he refuses, she unleashes all her power, forcing him to grasp his own mortality.

Love comes at a price: I prefer to see it as the unwillingness of Angra to accept his own incompleteness. Death is the annihilation of all we are: that’s why we are in constant competition with ourselves, trying to fill a void that cannot be filled, if not, partially, by giving up that same resilience that tries to drive us away from death itself.

Ishtar’s love is not unconditional: when Angra realizes it, it’s, once again, too late.

Trost in Tränen

Wie kommts, daß du so traurig bist,

Da alles froh erscheint?

Man sieht dirs an den Augen an,

Gewiß, du hast geweint.


»Und hab ich einsam auch geweint,

So ists mein eigner Schmerz,

Und Tränen fließen gar so süß,

Erleichtern mir das Herz.«


Die frohen Freunde laden dich,

O komm an unsre Brust!

Und was du auch verloren hast,

Vertraue den Verlust.


»Ihr lärmt und rauscht und ahnet nicht,

Was mich, den Armen quält.

Ach nein, verloren hab ichs nicht,

So sehr es mir auch fehlt.«

So raffe denn dich eilig auf,

Du bist ein junges Blut.

In deinen Jahren hat man Kraft

Und zum Erwerben Mut.


»Ach nein, erwerben kann ichs nicht,

Es steht mir gar zu fern.

Es weilt so hoch, es blinkt so schön,

Wie droben jener Stern.


« Die Sterne, die begehrt man nicht,

Man freut sich ihrer Pracht,

Und mit Entzücken blickt man auf

In jeder heitern Nacht. »


Und mit Entzücken blick ich auf,

So manchen lieben Tag;

Verweinen laßt die Nächte mich,

Solang ich weinen mag.«


Johann Wolgang von Goethe

Selected poems by:

Federico Garcia Lorca

Charles Baudelaire

Arthur Rimbaud

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Soprano, Baritone, piano,

dancers (min. 2)


ca. 60 mins

Credits: Photos by Lukas MüllerIan EspinosaChristian HolzingerJoe Mania

The original video for the teaser was created by Cento Lodigiani, released under CC BY, and can be found here:
The original video has been shortened, cut and edited in some parts to fit the purposes of this teaser. Music has been replaced with an orchestrated excerpt from La notte di Yalda.

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