When to see it
These events are part of the Winter 2016/17 season.
A powerful Protector commissions a young artist to create an illuminated book to celebrate his power. The book, and its artist, spark the rebellion of the Protector’s submissive wife Agnès.
Read more… (Contains spoilers)
George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s Written on Skin is one of the most successful new operas of recent times. Since its premiere at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2012 it has been performed worldwide in numerous productions, to widespread acclaim. The Royal Opera’s performances in 2013 of Katie Mitchell’s original production were no different; it received five-star reviews across the board and was described as ‘a musical masterpiece’ by The Guardian and ‘a serious and important work of art… music of genius’ by The Telegraph.
Written on Skin draws on a 12th-century Occitan legend about the troubadour Guillem de Cabestaing. Crimp’s text pulls out the story’s enduring themes of love, passion and violence, with a contemporary twist: mysterious 21st-century angels watch over the enfolding drama. Benjamin’s strikingly beautiful score – compared to Pelléas et Mélisande and Wozzeck – moves with breathtaking agility from moments of heightened stillness to unmistakable brutality.
News and features
25 April 2016
Credited with unexplained deaths and mental breakdowns, how can 37 glass bowls cause so much chaos?
11 March 2016
The director on her feminist take on Donizetti, and an innovative split-stage design.
7 October 2015
The director discusses her vision of Donizetti's opera as a tale of drama, jeopardy and feminism.
9 March 2013
Audience thoughts from the UK premiere of George Benjamin's dark and passionate opera.
8 March 2013
A tale of love, art and death from George Benjamin and Martin Crimp.
1 March 2013
George Benjamin, Martin Crimp, Barbara Hannigan and Christopher Purves on the opera.
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.