'A masterpiece': Benjamin's Lessons in Love and Violence travels to Amsterdam

PR8A2830 Barbara Hannigan as Isabel, Stéphane Degout as King, Ocean Barrington-Cook as Girl (C) ROH. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey.jpg

Following its critically aclaimed premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in May, George Benjamin's third opera to a text by Martin Crimp, Lessons in Love and Violence, travelled to Amsterdam where it received six performances at Dutch National Opera. 

 

 

Delving into the dark and turbulent events of Edward II's life and death, the opera is directed by Katie Mitchell, with designs by Vicki Mortimer, and features baritone Stéphane Degout, soprano Barbara Hannigan, baritone Gyula Orendt, tenor Peter Hoare, tenor Samuel Boden, soprano Jennifer France, mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, and bass-baritone Andri Björn Róbertsson. 

 

Lessons in Love and Violence is co-commissioned and co-produced with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden (May 2018), Dutch National Opera (June 2018), Hamburg State Opera (April 2019), Opéra de Lyon (May 2019), Lyric Opera of Chicago (Autumn 2020), Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona (March 2021) and Teatro Real, Madrid (April/May 2021).

 

REVIEWS

‘A masterpiece’
NRC Handelsblad (Mischa Spel and Ron Rijghard), 4 July 2018

 

‘A very rich soundworld... His music fascinates from the first note to the last.’
De Gooi-en Eemlander (Nanska van de Laar), 26 June 2018

 

‘Why Crimp has made [Benjamin] such an enthusiastic, unstoppable opera composer is easy to understand: Crimp’s text is clear, poetic, dark, loaded and ambiguous, and screams to be interpreted with music…The music that Benjamin has come up with, so brilliantly instrumented ... is characterized by a permanently emotional rawness... in the interlude before the final scene, the flames from the orchestra pit hit… The cast is absolutely amazing ... and are all given melodies that are fully adapted to their voices.’
Het Parool (Erik Voermans), 26 June 2018

 

‘It is not for nothing that Benjamin is this year’s featured composer at the Holland Festival. His is a completely original musical language; at one moment it feels comfortable, and in the next it assails you with a feeling of discomfort, through remarkable instrumental combinations or exotic tone colours… He and Crimp are a dream duo…’
Trouw (Frederike Berntsen), 7 June 2018

 

‘With beautifully drawn-out, long musical lines interspersed with explosive passages, the music carries the action. The most beautiful scenes in musical terms are the ones in which Gaveston predicts the future with the King by means of palm reading. Benjamin's orchestration with harps, cimbalom and drums is really brilliant – rarefied and rhythmic at the same time.’

Theaterkrant (Kester Freriks), 26 June 26 2018

 

‘A hermetic, dark work in which above all subcutaneous human desires are masterfully cast into sound… The tension is even tighter than Written on Skin… individual desires collide with those of the collective, and gradually everything in fatally derailed. Rarely does one see so many immediately iconic scenes in a new opera. The strongest example is the moment when Isabel is confronted with the poor of the country and dissolves a pearl in vinegar before their eyes… It is a dark scene and – like much of the opera – angry, dreamy, elusive and ambivalent. Benjamin’s delicate harmonies evoke sensuality: ominous creaking noises illustrate the weakness of the King, motoring Persian drums back a love duet which meanders between tenderness and cruelty…  When Mortimer forces the royal children to learn a lesson in cruelty by strangling a Madman, words and action are very explicit. The Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, always playing on the cutting edge, throws punches. Even more hard-hitting than these blows, however, are the score’s narrow consonances, melodious dissonances and unusual colours ( including gipsy cimbalom in the bass register) with which Benjamin gives such an unsurpassed voice to the untranslatable undercurrents of human contact and desire.’
NRC Handelsblad (Mischa Spel), 26 June 2018

 

‘The music, especially, is beautiful. Led by the composer himself, the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra makes the notes swirl and boil, glow and burn. The hammered strings of a cimbalom provide extra colour and sinister bass. Tailor-made vocal parts fit the singers like a glove... Benjamin is a master in the unfolding  and interweaving of supple vocal lines and in the compression and stretching of musical time. The listener is not short of anything.’
deVolkskrant (Frits van der Waa), 26 June 2018

 

‘As in his previous opera, Benjamin, with the inestimable collaboration of playwright and writer Crimp, draws upon a medieval history in which the darkest aspects of the human condition appear… The composer has created intriguing music, forceful at times, lyrical in others.’

El Periódico (Rosa Massagué), 26 June 2018