Benjamin: Written on Skin


Diapason d’Or 2014
Award-winning director Katie Mitchell brings a dark and passionate tale from composer George Benjamin and author Martin Crimp to the stage. This filmed version of Written On Skin was recorded during the opera’s world premiere at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2012. Conducted by George Benjamin and performed by Barbara Hannigan, Christopher Purves and Bejun Mehta, Written On Skin was greatly praised by the critics, who called it “the best opera written over the last 20 years” (Renaud Machard, Le Monde).


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.

Protector Christopher Purves
Agnès Barbara Hannigan
First Angel/Boy Bejun Mehta
Second Angel/Marie Victoria Simmonds
Third Angel/John Allan Clayton
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Text Martin Crimp
Conductor George Benjamin 
Director Katie Mitchell

Album Reviews

2014 Gramophone Award (Contemporary category)
2014 Diapason D’Or
2014 Edison Klassiek

"Magic and irresistible [...] It is the best opera written over the last twenty years".
Renaud Machart, Le Monde

"Written on Skin is close to be a masterpiece".
Christian Merlin, Le Figaro

"Sensual, evocative and gloriously singable".
Financial Times