Excitement mounts for George Benjamin's 'Written on Skin'

‘a composer who is like the eye at the centre of the contemporary music storm.’
Financial Times (Richard Fairman), 9 March 2012
Following the enormous success of George Benjamin’s first opera Into the Little Hill (2006), there has been huge anticipation in the musical world at the prospect of his first full-length work in this genre. After a period of intense work and isolation for Benjamin, that moment has now arrived and 7 July 2012 sees the premiere of his much awaited new opera, Written on Skin.
The libretto is based on an anonymous 13th century tale and is a collaboration with playwright Martin Crimp, who describes the plot:
‘A rich landowner invites an artist into his house to make an illuminated book. He wants the book to immortalise in pictures both the violent operation of his political power and his peaceful enjoyment of domestic order – embodied by the humility and child-like obedience of his wife, Agnès. But the making of the book becomes a catalyst for the woman’s rebellion. After her first successful experiment in seduction, she exploits her new intimacy with the illuminator to influence the contents of the book itself – forcing her husband to see her as she really is – and laying the ground for an extraordinary final act of defiance.’
(Martin Crimp)
The opera will be premiered as part of the Aix-en-Provence Festival (co-commissioner) at the Grand Théâtre de Provence, on 7 July 2012, followed by further performances on 9, 11 and 14 July. The premiere cast includes: Christopher Purves baritone, Barbara Hannigan soprano, Bejun Mehta countertenor, Victoria Simmonds mezzo-soprano, Allan Clayton tenor, with stage direction by Katie Mitchell and sets/costumes by Vicki Mortimer. At the premiere the Mahler Chamber Orchestra will be conducted by the composer.
Following the premiere the opera tours to:
Nederlandse Opera, Amsterdam (co-commissioner) – October 2012
Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse (co-commissioner) – November 2012
Royal Opera House, London (co-commissioner) – March 2013
Maggio Musicale, Florence – May 2013
Theater an der Wien, Vienna – June 2013
Bavarian State Opera, Munich – July 2013
Opéra Comique, Paris – November 2013
Written on Skin lasts c.95 minutes (the composer’s longest span of music to date) and is scored for an orchestra of 60 players with some unusual additions including a bass viola de gamba and a glass harmonica.

***The vocal score of Written on Skin is available to buy here***

UK audiences have the opportunity to watch a live screening of the Aix performance at the French Institute in London on 14th July.

To watch a preview of the opera click here.
To read more about Benjamin’s thoughts on the opera please see the following interview: