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Written on Skin

The Royal Opera

Award-winning director Katie Mitchell brings a dark and passionate tale from composer George Benjamin and author Martin Crimp to the stage.

Introduction

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.

Background

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.

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