Image copyright Pascal Victor (again!)
This is the 2012 world premiere performance of Written on Skin, by British composer George Benjamin, but it’ll be going on to opera houses in London, Amsterdam, Florence, and Toulouse, so you can see he has his fans. It was indeed very well-received, but it’s also a dark, vicious work, so be warned. The Festival’s synopsis after the cut…
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.
Written on Skin, based on an Occitan legend from the 12th century and performed under the cold gaze of 21st-century angels, explores the explosive consequences of self-discovery and the limitations of the power that one human being can exert on another.
Also, it’s sung in English, but has French subtitles : P