‘An incontestable masterpiece’: Written on Skin receives its Canadian Premiere

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On 25 January George Benjamin’s Written on Skin received its Canadian stage premiere at L’Opéra de Montréal, where Alain Gauthier directed a new production (the opera’s eighth to date!). Nicole Paiement conduced the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and a cast that included Magali Simard-Galdès (Agnès) and Daniel Okulitch (Protector). Full details can be found here.

 

‘A brilliant reading of Written on Skin... With a dramatically powerful and musically robust show, l’Opéra de Montréal have succeeded in presenting an extraordinary Canadian premiere of this flagship 21st-century opera… A masterpiece… Crimp’s text has an implacable force… A dramatic steamroller of a work that must be heard in one sitting… Musically, Written on Skin is a fascinating work of orchestral strata, in which the sounds cohere like illuminations… The orchestration is extremely refined throughout… a must-see.’ 
Le Devoir (Christophe Huss), 27 January 2020

 

‘The Canadian [stage] premiere of Written on Skin is a notable event. 7-and-a-half years after its triumphant premiere, the work does not cease to fascinate through its powerful emotional charge and extraordinarily refined musical language. In this regard, the champions of the evening were, firstly, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Nicole Paiement, who offered an absolutely haunting interpretation of the score… With a great fluidity and subtlety that approached chamber music, the assembled forces sounded marvellous even in the unflattering acoustic of the salle Wilfrid-Pelletier… Sober and very clear, Gauthier’s mise en scène displays well the importance of the mysterious characters [the Angels] particularly at the denouement where they overlook the stage from the tops of two towers… Mindful to interpret the transformation of Agnès, the director shows how the humble, submissive, woman of the initial scenes gradually emancipates herself through her relationship with the Boy. To begin with symbolically constrained in her gestures by a corset with leather straps, she later frees herself from this bulky straitjacket… Authoritarian, at his wit’s end, and, finally, barbarically cruel, the Protector of Daniel Okulitch is excellent throughout... An incontestable masterpiece of the 21st Century.’
Avant Scène Opéra (Louis Bilodeau), 25 January 2020