Since its premiere two years ago, George Benjamin’s first full-length opera Written on Skin has travelled the world and picked up a host of awards in the process – most recently the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Large-Scale Composition award. The opera is currently being performed at the Landestheater Detmold in a new production from director Kay Metzger which confirms, if proof were needed, that the musical and textual richness of the work is capable of inspiring a whole range of dramatic possibilities.
‘Judged statistically and artistically, it is already the 21st century’s most successful new opera…Benjamin’s score, eerily nostalgic yet pure and inventive, is simply superb… Kay Metzger’s production is a modest affair, simpler and more literal than Mitchell’s multi-layered extravagance. His three angels have wings sprouting from white laboratory coats, and they run a morgue that is part mad-house, part theatre of the mind... This is a whole new world of visual reference, and it fits well with the social tensions of the piece… On a small stage and on a limited budget, Written on Skin still moves and mesmerises.’
The Financial Times (Shirley Apthorp), 28 April 2014
'Kay Metzger, director of the [Detmold] State Theatre is always open to new, unknown and daring work, presents his own view of George Benjamin's opera for discussion. A bold move that has proved to be entirely successful. Widespread approval of this kind is rarely encountered in Detmold Music Theatre today. This is sure to be due, in a big part, to Benjamin's music, whose basic style is influenced by poetic, iridescent timbres, wide ranging orchestral colours from the pit, including sounds of mandolin, viola da gamba and glass harmonica - and varied percussion. Benjamin writes in an almost ideal manner for the five vocal soloists: very cantabile, linear, never "against" the voice.'
Neue Musikzeitung (Christoph Schulte), 30 April 2014
‘They dared and won: the courage of the State Theatre [Detmold], only the third opera house worldwide to stage a new production of Written on Skin, has paid off. The crowd cheered at a magnificent premiere.’
Lippisches Kultur-Journal (Barbara Luetgebrune), 14 April 2014
‘Benjamin’s music… blends itself sympathetically into the dramatic tension of the tragedy and paints the story with timbres… Just like the video projections (Martin Kemner), which show at one time a landscape, the sky or abstract shapes of colour, subtle, elegant, not a moment superfluous… a witty, intelligent staging of superlatives, a work that marks the ideal symbiosis of music and theatre. A must have.’
Detmold Opernfreund (Jan Ochalski), 19 April 2014