‘Written on Skin’ Composer Plans New Opera

George Benjamin CreditTom Jamieson for The New York Times

A new opera is coming from the composer of “Written on Skin,” one of the most acclaimed and successful musical works of the 21st century so far. “Lessons in Love and Violence,” George Benjamin’s next collaboration with the playwright Martin Crimp, his librettist for “Skin,” will have its premiere next year at the Royal Opera House in London, the company announced on Tuesday.

Inspired by Elizabethan drama, “Lessons” tells the story of a king whose decisions open familial wounds and set off a civil war. “This new opera considers what space, if any, exists for love and human affection inside the dangerous machinery of power,” said the announcement from the Royal Opera.

Conducted by Mr. Benjamin, directed by Katie Mitchell and starring the soprano Barbara Hannigan — who all collaborated on “Written on Skin” — “Lessons” will also feature the baritone Stéphane Degout. The work will be presented in London in May 2018 before traveling to Amsterdam; Hamburg, Germany; Lyon, France; Chicago; and Barcelona and Madrid, in Spain, the homes of the companies that have commissioned it alongside the Royal Opera.

Missing from that list? New York, which was also late to hear “Written on Skin.” “Skin,” which had its premiere at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France in 2012, did not have any American commissioners, and only reached New York in 2015, when Ms. Mitchell’s production was presented at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. (The work was heard in concert at the Tanglewood Festival in 2013.)

“Written on Skin” attracted passionate raves and has spread unusually quickly: It has had more than 80 performances in 13 countries, and will have its Russian premiere in April. Writing in The New York Times, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim called it “a psychologically gripping, emotionally heart-pounding and viscerally satisfying drama.”


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