"Find one happy person in this world and cut one button from their sleeve. Do it before night and your child will live"
A special limited edition full score of Benjamin and Crimp’s Picture a day like this has been published to celebrated the UK premiere of the piece at the Linbury Theatre of the Royal Opera House on 22 September.
Picture a day like this is the fourth operatic collaboration from the acclaimed duo, whose partnership has previously produced Written on Skin, Lessons in Love and Violence, and Into the Little Hill. The opera was co-commissioned and co-produced by the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Royal Opera House Covent Garden London, Opéra national du Rhin, Opéra Comique, and les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Oper Köln and Teatro di San Carlo.
This limited edition of the full score is one of only one hundred and fifty, presented in a cloth-bound hard cover. Each copy is signed by George Benjamin and Martin Crimp and includes facsimile reproductions of pages from the manuscript, sketches by Benjamin and Crimp, and a photograph of Benjamin, Crimp and directors Daniel Jeanneteau and Marie-Christine Soma in rehearsal at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.
The opera, which lasts just over an hour, is cast in seven scenes. It tells the story of a Woman who has lost her child: if, before nightfall, she meets one truly happy person and cuts a button from their sleeve, her child will live again. In this search she meets a pair of lovers, a Composer and their Assistant, an Artisan, Collector, and, in a beautiful garden, the mysterious Zabelle.
The limited, signed edition of Picture a day like this is available to buy now from the Faber Music Shop. The first edition vocal score for Picture a day like this and Martin Crimp’s text for music are also available to purchase.
Praise for Picture a day like this
…a beautifully written triumph…Benjamin’s music conjures a line of chant-like declamation and suppressed emotion…[He] deftly sketches characters in the space of a few moments, while sustaining the onward flow of the narrative. That flow is reflected in the refined writing…using precisely-chosen shifting colours for orchestral soloists…an exquisitely crafted little masterpiece.
The Telegraph (Nicholas Kenyon) 6 July 2023 *****
Benjamin proves with this taut, sharp miniature that he is the finest opera composer of today…a work of depth of feeling, humanistic artistry and expressive rigor…a drama that is miraculously condensed.
Süddeutsche Zeitung (Reinhard J. Brembeck) 9 July 2023
…a taut one-act of masterly craft…a motif of muted trumpets and a trombone; tubular bells, quietly embedded in each scene’s climax, suggest a clock striking, and time running out… Benjamin’s music…despite its immaculate construction is never obviously representational or tidily resolved.
The New York Times (Joshua Barone) 9 July 2023
The fourth collaboration between Benjamin and Crimp once again falls into the category of “masterpiece”…Benjamin’s writing for the voice…creates vocal lines perfectly matched to the prosody…The refined score is sensual and intoxicating, puncturing and caressing.
Le Monde (Marie-Aude Roux) 7 July 2023
…with Martin Crimp, Benjamin has returned to Aix to affirm that 21st century opera – modern, classical, significant, profound, enduring – finds in him its greatest champion.
El País (Luis Gago) 7 July 2023
…spare, haunting, immediate…a fable of loss and anguish for our times… The whole has the slick perfection of a piece crafted specifically for exceptional performers…the score [is] deft and restrained, its occasional outbursts of passion all the more intense for the careful control of the rest…There is a ritualistic slowness to the movement, resembling an underwater memory or the trance-like dullness of bereavement…For Zabelle’s enchanted garden, video artist Hicham Berrada has created an ambivalent scene of blossoming chemical reactions — toxic and vibrant, sinister and fascinating…It is fiendishly clever…. [the opera] tackles huge subjects with daring economy of means…Its impact is unsettling...For all its beguiling beauty, its moments of dark wit and bitter social observation, Picture remains a voyage beyond all comfort zones.
Financial Times (Shirley Apthorp) 7 July 2023 *****
A sensual and elegant fairytale…An exemplary instance of writing for the voice.
Opern News (Joachim Langer) 9 July 2023
Picture a day like this confirms [Benjamin’s] affinity for the medium…at every moment the poetry of the text enters into sympathetic resonance with the music…the orchestral language again stands out for its extreme refinement…infinite shimmers reflecting the changing moods of the characters…the counterpoint teems but is never overwhelming…it is no exaggeration to call this a masterpiece.
Diapason (Emmanuel Dupuy) 7 July 2023
His writing is more chiseled than ever…luxurious sonorities, cut like diamonds…[the music] imperceptibly renews itself…The vocal writing is masterful.
Le Figaro (Christian Merlin) 7 July 2023
…The vocal lines fit Crebassa like a glove…an intravenous injection of the emotions portrayed…the end result is ambiguous but utterly satisfying…Picture shares the best qualities of Written on Skin and Lessons in Love and Violence – the poetry, the quality of singing, the score, the sure-footed sense of the dramatic…Its 75 minutes were the most inspiring I have ever spent in an opera house.
Bachtrack (David Karlin) 6 July 2023 *****