Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Written on Skin. It was last on stage 8–22 March 2013 as part of the Winter 2012/13 season.
A powerful Protector commissions a young artist to create an illuminated book to celebrate his power. The book sparks the rebellion of the Protector’s submissive wife Agnès, setting the scene for an extraordinary act of revenge.
When Written on Skin had its premiere at the 2012 Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, conducted by George Benjamin himself, it received a standing ovation. The opera's arrival at Covent Garden in 2013 is eagerly anticipated, and provides audiences with the opportunity to experience the work of two of Britain's greatest living artists. Benjamin previously collaborated with playwright Martin Crimp on Into the Little Hill, a magical retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale, and for this new work they join forces with acclaimed stage director Katie Mitchell. For all three, the production marks their main-stage debut at the Royal Opera House.
Written on Skin draws on a 12th-century Occitan legend about the troubadour Guillaume de Cabestanh. The story's enduring themes of love, passion and violence are given a very contemporary twist: mysterious 21st-century angels watch over the enfolding drama, while Mitchell's inventive staging combines ancient and modern elements. Benjamin harnesses an array of diverse instruments – including glass harmonica, cowbells and mandolins – in a strikingly beautiful and rich score, complemented by Crimp’s poetic text.
News and features
7 October 2015
The director discusses her vision of Donizetti's opera as a tale of drama, jeopardy and feminism.
1 August 2014
Recordings by Jonas Kaufmann and Gerald Finley are also shortlisted.
27 January 2014
George Benjamin and Martin Crimp's opera hailed as a 'standout opera of recent decades'.
2 January 2014
George Benjamin’s acclaimed 21st-century opera now available to buy online.
19 November 2013
Katie Mitchell's production of George Benjamin and Martin Crimp's acclaimed work is nominated in the opera category.
18 June 2013
Find out more about George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s masterpiece.
Written on Skin is an opera by the British composer George Benjamin. It was premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2012, and received its British premiere at the Royal Opera House in London in March 2013; Benjamin conducted for both of these premiere seasons. The libretto by Martin Crimp is based on a legend of the troubadour Guillaume de Cabestanh; the story is also repeated in The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio. The action takes place in 12th-century Provence. The wealthy Protector pays the Boy to create and illustrate a manuscript about his family. The Boy and the Protector's wife Agnès are attracted to each other. The Protector murders the Boy and forces Agnès to eat the Boy's heart. Agnès commits suicide. 'Angels' comment throughout on the action from a modern-day perspective. The success of the opera in performance has motivated the Royal Opera to commission a new full-length opera by Crimp and Benjamin, to be premiered in 2018. The title is not yet known.