George Benjamin’s long-awaited new opera Written on Skin, with libretto by Martin Crimp, opened to a standing ovation at its premiere in Aix-en-Provence. Directed by Katie Mitchell, with lighting by Jon Clark, France Today described it as ‘almost certainly headed straight for any list of the best operas of the 21st century so far…. Staged by Katie Mitchell and brilliantly sung by a nearly flawless cast, opening night was a collective tour de force.’
Although Andrew Clements found some of the staging distracting, he thought what ‘Benjamin and Crimp have done is remarkable’, praising powerful music, book, cast and orchestra. Alternating the bleak story behind a 13th-century troubador’s song, with commentary on the action by contemporary archaeologists re-enacting the events described in the manuscript they are restoring, the opera – and Vicki Mortimer’s strikingly-lit set – move back and forth over eight centuries.
The opera was commissioned by Aix with four other opera houses, so if you can’t get to Aix, you can catch subsequent performances at Nederlandse Opera Amsterdam, the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden London and the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.