Picture a day like this is the fourth collaboration between George Benjamin and Martin Crimp, whose acclaimed partnership produced Written on Skin, Lessons in Love and Violence, and Into the Little Hill. The opera – “a kind of Alice in Wonderland, but for adults”, says Crimp – lasts just over an hour and is cast in seven scenes. It is scored for five voices (S-S-MS-CT-Bar) and twenty-two instrumentalists. It premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2023, conducted by the composer.

Picture a day like this is a bittersweet fable of grief and renewal. Benjamin and Crimp tell 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 her search she meets a pair of lovers, a Composer and their Assistant, an Artisan, Collector, and, in a beautiful garden, the mysterious Zabelle. 

‘…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