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Your Reaction: What did you think of Lessons in Love and Violence?

Audience responses to the world premiere of George Benjamin and Martin Crimp's new opera.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

11 May 2018 at 10.26am | 24 Comments

Press reviews:
The Stage ★★★★★
Guardian ★★★★
Telegraph ★★★★
Evening Standard ★★★★
Timeout ★★★★
WhatsOnStage ★★★★
Arts Desk ★★★★
Independent ★★★
Times ★★
New York Times (No star ratings - very positive)

What did you think of Lessons in Love and Violence?
Add your thoughts in the comments below.

Lessons in Love and Violence runs until 26 May 2018.

It is a co-production with Dutch National Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Opéra de Lyon, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, and Teatro Real, Madrid with generous philanthropic support from The Monument Trust, Stefan Sten Olsson, Mikhail Bakhtiarov, Fondation Peters, the Boltini Trust and The John S Cohen Foundation.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

11 May 2018 at 10.26am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Katie Mitchell, Lessons in Love and Violence, Production, review, your reaction

This article has 24 comments

  1. Loved every bit of it. Am confident it has a long future. At first hearing, the scene with the stranger (Gaveston/death) was for me the high point. Wonderful performances from all the cast, great playing and a splendid production. Thank you. Wouldn't have missed it.

  2. Does anyone from the ROH ever sit in the balcony or amphi during rehearsals, this production again suggests not. From the balcony, and I suspect even the Grand Tier let alone the amphi the lighting for this production was terrible. It was impossible to see who was singing much of the time, not helped by the fact that the costume designer has simply sent round an email telling everyone to bring in their interview suit from home, but most crucially it was impossible to see what was being wheeled in on the various trolies as the lights on them were too bright. In a theatre where the vast majority of the audience are looking at the stage from above this is just not good enough.

    • Rose responded on 11 May 2018 at 1:40pm

      I was seated in the amphi and thought the view was fine, I agree to some extent but fail to see how your entire experience was ruined by the lights on the trolllies being a bit too bright, and the uniformity in costumes - the items on the trollies were not the be all and end all of the production ( the word ‘crucially’ seems a bit excessive.) Do not let this distract you from the sheer drama of the score, talent of the performers, and the piece as a whole - which was ultimately an artistic triumph. A shame to write a comment which expresses distaste in lighting but fails to offer anything complimentary about the production on any level.

    • Rog responded on 11 May 2018 at 2:05pm

      I was in amphi row L, and well over to the right hand side too - far further back than usual for me. I could see everything clearly and had no problem distinguishing the characters. I thought it one of the better-lit ROH shows in fact.

  3. Alexander Sasha Obradovic responded on 11 May 2018 at 10:03pm Reply

    Simply magic , dark and morbid on occasions but it was expected . Cast , stage , orchestra and conducting outstanding. Won't tell more as one has to see it .

  4. John Rees responded on 13 May 2018 at 10:30am Reply

    I saw the second performance. Much to admire: the libretto is a cracker, one of the best; scenes 1, 2 and 7 are first-rate; and the performances by Peter Hoare as the violent civil servant and by Samuel Boden, moving from Young Prince to Young King, were admirable.
    I found it difficult to believe in the relationship between the King and Gaveston, despite two fine duets. Edward was played as someone who would spend too much time with his priceless collection of Francis Bacon pictures, while Gaveston appeared to be a pillar of the local rugby club. This relationship drives the whole action, and it is essential that its credibility is established rapidly.
    Isabel's character seems to be a mass of contradictions, and even Barbara Hannigan struggled to make much of her - the splendid pearl scene excepted.
    I wouldn't want to reach a final judgement on Benjamin's score until some of these dramatic issues have been sorted out.

  5. Karen responded on 14 May 2018 at 6:14pm Reply

    Interesting you've left out the Times (2 stars). I don't have a dog in this particular fight btw. Just saying.

    • Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media)) responded on 15 May 2018 at 11:01am

      Hi Karen,

      We publish as many of the reviews as possible, good or bad, if they are available when we publish our reaction piece. We then add any other reviews which come in later as they are published - thanks for flagging this one. We'll add it now.

      Many thanks,


  6. london man responded on 16 May 2018 at 12:33am Reply

    Found it so boring ,A nothing libretto with underused singers ,That's its new does not make it good ,Unlike 4.48 does not push boundaries ,just monotonous sound like a lot of other contemporary pieces .Please let other companies do this nonsense experimental stuff that no one wants to see more than once and stick to what ROH is great at.Its not traditional against contemporary just between good and bad art . It was dreadful .Unlike the reviewers .I don't get my tickets for free so I do have to think if this was money well spent . It wasn't . Get back to basics ROH lack of ticket sales tell you what people think .

  7. John Rose responded on 16 May 2018 at 10:58am Reply

    Hmm. Not sure about this one.(We saw the 3rd performance on May 15th) I found the story line straight-forward; yet the libretto seems so elliptical and allusive that the drama failed to hit home. What I am certain of,however, is just how well it was sung by all the cast without exception. The speech-like recitative passages, (which predominated) were lieder like in their attention to phrasing and text which were a pleasure to listen to.

    All in all; not a masterpiece,certainly, but well worth doing. And full marks to ROH for mounting a beautifully considered performance,whether you like it or not.

    It's very good indeed to have these new works and ROH has a good track record over the last 20 years or so. Thank you.
    Not every single one is going to be a winner!.......

  8. John Ginman responded on 16 May 2018 at 4:39pm Reply

    I found this mesmeric, and a rare, perfect fusion of music, text and production. it creates a compelling evening's theatre through its precise use of sound, word and image, its clearly-told story, and characters whose actions resist simplistic explanation. Far too early to worry about whether or not it's a 'masterpiece', I'd say, and I'm not even sure what that means, but I encourage people to see this. And as others here are saying, the performance is of exceptional quality - in all respects.

  9. John Hyde responded on 17 May 2018 at 5:06pm Reply

    I'm not a musicologist nor an expert in modern opera but I have seen many productions over the past twenty years. I am sure the cast did what they were told & the singing was, of course, of a very high standard, if not always to my taste. However, when any kind of art needs page after page in the programme to explain what's what, I do have my doubts about its impact on regular opera goers and the 'product's' likely longevity

  10. Zooid responded on 17 May 2018 at 8:38pm Reply

    Polite enthusiasm on opening night
    I can think immediately of 2 far superior exciting (genuinely) new operas of the past 12 months: Hamlet, Exterminating Angel
    The dramatic history can easily be found in far superior form elsewhere eg. by Alison Weir.
    The staging banal with its crown on a trolley and Bacons - hint hint, nudge, yawn.
    Benjamin strikes me as little more than a child of the establishment and this work has not altered that impression.

  11. Rachel responded on 19 May 2018 at 9:09am Reply

    Excellent singing/playing etc. Why was the front cloth hung do low though? It was the same with ‘Lucia.’ Raise it by even a few feet, and VOILA! I’m not looking at headless performers for the majority of the evening. I don’t expect to see everything where I sit, but still...... When staging a production, can someone PLEASE send someone round to sit in all parts of the house to give them an idea of any potential issues like this. Thanks.

  12. Mélanie responded on 19 May 2018 at 10:19am Reply

    Worst thing we have ever seen in our life.
    I sing what I see: this is the glass, and this is the vinegaaar, I put vinegar in the glass, la la la.
    The art and the world is changing and so shame that it goes in such direction. You show this performance in France, Italy, Russia etc., people will stand up and leave in 5 minutes time. To see this in ROH was the biggest deception for me, as a tourist. No applauding but shock and waiting when this turtor will be over. And we are a group of people who are used to go to theatres, operas all over the world almost on weekly basis.

  13. Great orchestral interludes- the libretto is banal and the narrative unremittingly grim
    Relentless .
    Please provide the composer with a different librettist .-plenty of good playwrights around

  14. Robert Hill responded on 20 May 2018 at 7:54pm Reply

    I think it’s the duty of our major opera house to produce new work. I think that this is a major piece of work. I agree with the commentator who said that it was too early to declare the opera a masterpiece. I thought the libretto was taught and reflected the dilemma in our world. The struggle between love (or respect) and power (in many cases, hate). The musical score reflected this so well. The quiet, reflective music that established the relationship between King and Galveston. The aggressive, loud music which epitomised the struggle for power and, eventually, the struggle for love. I went to the performance on May 15th. Great seat in the stalls. Going again May 24th. Same seat. Can’t wait.

  15. Tancredi responded on 25 May 2018 at 12:46pm Reply

    Modern Dress

    ‘Ah, they’re doing it in modern dress’ is not conducive to being drawn in emotionally.
    I suppose this is Katie Mitchell; who managed not to wreck Written on Skin, but did wreck Lucia di Lammermoor and various theatre productions.

  16. Victor Ellams responded on 26 May 2018 at 12:29pm Reply

    I see the last performance is being streamed on Medici Arts and Arte but sadly not available in this country - is it likely to be shown on BBC4 at some point?

  17. Anita Baratti responded on 26 May 2018 at 11:17pm Reply

    Embarrassing, on all levels. I went to the ROH to see an opera and that is definitely not what I got. There was no singing whatsoever and solid music accompaniment was totally missing, which gave the performance an unbelievably boring shade and no musical style, ending up being not involving at all. It was a bad combination of acting and low-skilled "singing" - apart from the lady starring in Isabel's role, who had a fantastic voice and good stage presence, just wish she actually sang! Sorry to say that I would have left after 5 minutes, but convinced by my partner to give it a chance, I eventually stood up after half an hour of ordeal. Not even interested in getting to the end of the story, as the plot was very banal. I have a great experience in both traditional and modern opera and I am extremely open to modern and revisited works but this simply did not fit the definition of opera and thus should not be advertised as such.

  18. John Goulden responded on 27 May 2018 at 12:12pm Reply

    We thought the orchestral writing and performance were magical; the libretto taut but a bit elliptical; and the singing/acting pretty good. The negatives, for us, were the poor lighting and especially the confused, often too ambiguous, direction by Katie Mitchell. But overall a fine premiere by the ROH and a well-justified addition to this year's programme, where the triumphs (Macbeth and Semiramide) more than compensated for the turkey (the production, though not the music of, From the House of the Dead).

  19. Francesca Fremantle responded on 29 May 2018 at 1:09am Reply

    An astonishing and disturbing work, which seems to embody ‘the slow radiance of music’. It haunted me so much that I had to go again to the last performance . The second time I found it much more lyrical, while the first time the violence had overpowered any other impressions. Much as I enjoyed Written on Skin, this feels on another level, and the production worked much better too.

  20. Stephen Miller responded on 30 May 2018 at 3:11pm Reply

    Can it really be so amazing? 20 days after I saw the premiere, I envy Francesca the final performance and will listen to Radio 3 Saturday. (We had tickets for the last performance, but an opportunity for an operation intervened.) To me Lessons accesses the leanness and tragic darkness of Verdi, filled with revenge. How politically foolish the king and his lover are to humiliate a man like Mortimer whose revenge claims first the life of Gaveston, then the body of the queen and finally the king and his power for a while. The king’s death scene astonishes – is there a precedent? However, Mortimer overreaches with the king’s son. The operatic coup is the persisting presence of the royal children as witnesses. (What they do not see, children of a dissolving marriage feel.) Their love of their father is not conditional; at least ‘poetic’ justice follows. Can 50 revivals touch this first run…doubtful?

  21. John and Arlene Canter responded on 13 July 2018 at 2:47am Reply

    My wife and I accidentally tuned into Lessons in Love and Violence while sitting in a mall parking lot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, testing the radio in our newly purchased automobile. Fortuitously, we had chosen the optional Harmon Kardon radio / speaker package and were thus blessed with hearing live, in all of its richness, fullness and blazing power, the Lessons in Love and Violence .
    inaugural of what instantly has become our favorite opera. So enthralled were we with the score, the drama, the musicology, the pin-drop clarity of the technology that we sat, entranced, and listened to the entire performance in a pair of bucket seats!
    Truly an overwhelming, mystifying, memorable experience. Hope that that performance was recorded and will be offered commercially in the near future.

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