On 27 January George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s Written on Skin (2012) opened at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in Katie Mitchell’s acclaimed production, revived by Dan Ayling and conducted by Marc Albrecht.
Benjamin and Crimp’s taut tale of jealousy, love, and brutality was previously heard in Berlin in 2018 in a concert performance at the Philharmonie from Benjamin and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra – who premiered the piece in 2012 at the Aix-en-Provence Festival with the composer; the production of the 90-minute piece at the Deutsche Oper is its first full staging for Berlin audiences, where it is in rep until 15 February.
Benjamin has tailored remarkably varied music – sometimes intoxicatingly beautiful – to the plot…The colors shift enormously with each scene. One is astonished. Perhaps this is why…some critics hailed it as the best opera since Wozzeck.
Berliner Zeitung (Kai Luehrs-Kaiser) 28 January 2024
Benjamin’s engaging, contemporary score…is sensual and absorbing…He uses unusual instruments…to striking effect. The restrained orchestration allows the vocal writing to come through…an intensive musical and dramatic experience lingers – human feeling and affect compactly and urgently condensed into 90 minutes. It is evident why the piece is so successful.
Tagespiegel (Udo Badelt) 28 January 2024
This tragic love story is given great musical expression and intimacy…Benjamin not only enlivens the sound and texture of conventional orchestral forces with all the means at his disposal, but adds much more besides. A glass harmonica and viola de gamba make an unexpected impact and add a whole new sonic and expressive level.
TAZ (Katharina Granzin) 29 January 2024
Written on Skin is possibly the most successful opera of the beginning of the 21st century…Benjamin’s score is crafted to reflect the softness and nuanced moods of the singer’s voices…clarinets show off their beauty in a trio, strings thump quietly and menacingly, but then soar with longing.
Berliner Morgenpost (Matthias Nöther) 28 January 2024
Mark Stone sings the role of Protector, with Georgia Jarman as Agnès and Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen as Angel 1/The Boy. Jarman previously sung the role in 2019 for the Venice Biennale with the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai conducted by Clemens Schuldt, and in 2020 in concert stagings at Festival Présences and the Wiener Konzerthaus with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by Benjamin; she also appeared in the German premiere of Benjamin and Crimp’s third stage work Lessons in Love and Violence at the Staatsoper Hamburg in 2019.
Written on Skin has received over 150 performances since its debut at the Aix-en-Provence festival in 2012 in ten different productions and has been acclaimed as one of the finest works of the twenty-first century by the Guardian. Most recently it appeared in two concert stagings from the Orchestre National de Lille conducted by Alexander Bloch in Lille and Calais on 25 and 26 January. On 30 May Benjamin himself conducts the Norwegian premiere of the work with the Stavanger Symfoniorkester, in a semi-staging directed by Dan Ayling, and starring Vera-Lotte Boecker, Auden Iversen, and countertenor Hugh Cutting.