Written On Skin, George Benjamin – Opera

Katie Mitchell, George Benjamin – Christopher Purves (The Protector), Barbara Hannigan (Agnès), Bejun Mehta (Angel 1 – The Boy) – Aix-en-Provence Festival

"The best opera written over the last 20 years", said the prestigious French newspapers Le Monde in July 2012: discover Written On Skin, George Benjamin's opera, recorded at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and performed here as a world premiere.

The story of Written On Skin is a passionate yet barbaric one. Based on an Occitan legend from the 12th century, the opera tells the story of an adulterous relationship which leads to a tragic punishment.

A rich lord welcomes into his house the artist he has commissioned to complete a book of illuminations. This work, he hopes, will immortalise the ruthless practice of his political power and the calm contentment brought to him by domestic order, embodied in the humility and childish obedience of his wife Agnes.

However the creation of the book becomes a catalyst for his wife's rebellion. After a first successful attempt at seduction, Agnes uses her new intimacy with the illuminator to change the very content of the book and so forces her husband to see her as she really is. This opens the path for an extraordinary and final act of provocation.

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 the stunning 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, 9th of July 2012).

This opera was broadcast live on medici.tv on the 14th of July 2012.

© Picture: Written on Skin – George Benjamin – World premiere – Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2012 @ArtcomArt/P.Victor

In the press:

"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

Linked event :

George Benjamin musical direction
Martin Crimp libretto
Katie Mitchell stage director
Vicki Mortimer scenography, costumes
Jon Clark lighting


Christopher Purves (The Protector)
Barbara Hannigan (Agnès)
Bejun Mehta (Angel 1 – The Boy)
Victoria Simmonds (Angel 2 – Marie)
Allan Clayton (Angel 3 – John)


Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Movie director : Corentin Leconte
Playlists : The most beautiful programs in HD, Paul Agnew's Playlist
Music genre : Voice

Duration : 01 h 36 min
Locations : Aix-en-Provence Festival (Aix-en-Provence, France), Grand Théâtre de Provence (Aix-en-Provence, France)
Production date : 2012
Production : © Bel Air Media / Festival d'Aix-en-Provence
Available version(s) : EN ST FR



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