"George Benjamin is the most successful opera composer of our time." Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Marco Frei)

A new production of George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s Lessons in Love in Violence, directed by Evgeny Titov, opened in May at the Opernhaus Zürich, conducted by Ilan Volkov. It is the second fully-staged version of the piece since Katie Mitchell’s acclaimed world premiere production for the Royal Opera House in 2017. See the trailer for Titov’s production here.

The role of the King is shared by baritones Lauri Vasar and Ivan Ludlow. Isabel is sung by soprano Jeanine de Bique - she discusses the role here. Gaveston, the King's lover, is played by Björn Bürger, Mortimer by tenor Mark Milhofer, and the Boy/Young King by Sunnyboy Dlada. The production is designed by Rufus Didwiszus, with costumes by Falk Bauer, lighting by Martin Gebhardt, and video by Tieni Burkhalter. 

George Benjamin has recently conducted the Mahler Chamber Orchestra Academy on a European tour of Lessons in Love in Violence, presented in a concert staging devised by Dan Ayling, which included the Belgian premiere of the piece at BOZAR, alongside performances at the Dortmund Konzerthaus, Kölner Philharmonie, and Essen Philharmonie.

This opera sends the powerful on a journey to hell…George Benjamin is the most successful opera composer of our time…a gripping new production…He proves a sensitive contrapuntalist: one voice is placed beside another, and from the resulting friction sounds develop, expand and disappear abruptly after a crescendo. Sometimes all that is left is a single pitch or a soft whistle, before another tone sounds and a new tension emerges.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Marco Frei) 23 May 2023

This overwhelming power is infused by Benjamin with poised, soft and diaphanous gestures…its peaks of intensity or hovering apprehension carried by the harps and percussion, like calm after the storm: the feeling of crisis here is pushed to the extreme. A constant tension is thus maintained throughout the performance, through deliberate dissonances, strident highs, snapping strings, and cellists tapping their instruments with their fingers. These sounds plunge the room into a lingering madness, even before the arrival of the soloists.

Ôlyrix (Adèle Frison), 2 May 2023

The orchestral forces…offer Benjamin a broad colour palette for a score that us hugely varied in its timbres…When the Queen drops a pearl into a glass of vinegar…Benjamin’s writing is magnificently illustrative.

Online Musik Magazin (Thomas Molke) 27 May 2023

The 90-minute opera, in two unbroken parts, draws on the real-life relationship between Edward II and Piers Gaveston to explore how the personal can become fatally political. The King lives in a close but uneasy relationship with his wife Isabel, their two children and his lover Gaveston. When the King banishes his military advisor Mortimer, he sets off a chain of devastating events.

Benjamin will conduct Ensemble Modern in his first stage work Into the Little Hill at the Ernst von Siemens Prize Ceremony at Munich’s Herkulessaal on 26 May, with Keren Motseri and Helena Rasker singing. His latest stage work with Martin Crimp Picture a day like this opens at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July, with the composer conducting; it receives its UK premiere at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre in the autumn. Martin Crimp discusses the piece here.