‘Contemporary opera as a model of success': Reaction to the Swiss Premiere Written on Skin

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Earlier this month, George Benjamin’s Written on Skin received its Swiss premiere at the Theater St.Gallen conducted by Otto Tausk in a production by Nicola Raab. Critics praised the work as ‘lucid – not abstract or intellectual in any way’.
 
Looking ahead, August sees the opera receiving its American stage premiere in New York as part of the Mostly Mozart Festival where Benjamin is Composer in Residence. Alan Gilbert conducts the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
 
‘Firstly, there is the libretto by Martin Crimp, which is terse and complex at the same time. [There exists a] very successful relationship between text and music… one feels that the two planes interlock with one another rather than just exist side by side. But perhaps the key to the opera’s success is the music itself. This English composer’s soundworld has a strong French flavour – refined and full of timbral sophistication… Among the most beautiful scenes in the work is the meeting of the Boy and Agnès, whose voices seductively wind around each other… Overall a very subtle music has come into being, which gets under the skin… It convinced.'
Südkurier (Elisabeth Schwind), 5 May 2015
 
‘Contemporary opera as a model of success: Benjamin's Written on Skin has everything you need for a sensual and intelligent piece. The music is kept aloft in the air for ninety minutes; refined instrumentation, tinged with the colours of early music like viola da gamba, with the otherworldly sounds of glass harmonica, strings, muted trumpets, percussion... A beautiful sound web that can shine through several layers of time... Lucid – not abstract or intellectual in any way.’
Tagblatt (Bettina Kugler), 4 May 2015