The Royal Opera announces world premiere of George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s ‘Lessons in Love and Violence’

[George Benjamin’s Written on Skin © ROH 2016. Photograph by Stephen Cummiskey]

World Premiere


Music by George Benjamin | Text by Martin Crimp

The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden | 10, 12, 15, 18, 24, 26 May, 2018

Co-commissioned and co-produced with Dutch National Opera (July 2018), Hamburg State Opera (April 2019), Opéra de Lyon (May 2019), Lyric Opera of Chicago (2020/21 Season), Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona (March 2021) and Teatro Real, Madrid (April/May 2021).

The Royal Opera has today announced the world premiere of George Benjamin’s new opera, Lessons in Love and Violence, which will be presented on 10 May, 2018.

George Benjamin’s third opera follows the very successful model of his second opera Written on Skin, with six commissioning partners from five different countries coming together with The Royal Opera to commission this new work. Since its world premiere in 2012, Written on Skin has been performed more than eighty times around the globe, in five different productions (with a sixth production coming next year in the USA), with numerous broadcasts, internet and television relays. The opera has also been recorded for CD and DVD.

Benjamin will once again work with British playwright Martin Crimp, who provided the text for his opera Into the Little Hill (commissioned by the Festival d’Automne à Paris and first performed in London in 2009 in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre) and who went on to provide the text for his first full-length opera Written on Skin, which received its world premiere at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July 2012, followed by the UK premiere at the Royal Opera House in March 2013.

Inspired by the fast-moving scenes and vulnerable, complex characters of Elizabethan drama, this new opera by George Benjamin and Martin Crimp considers what space, if any, exists for love and human affection inside the dangerous machinery of power.  

A king, compelled to choose between love and political hard-headedness, makes a fatal decision, allowing his country to slide into civil war, and setting his own wife and son implacably against him.

But when the son in turn has been given bruising lessons in realpolitik and the surgical use of force, he performs in front of his mother ― albeit with the object of restoring peace ― a terrifying act of violence.

Kasper Holten, Director of Opera, for The Royal Opera said:

 ‘I remember sitting in Aix-en-Provence for the first night of Written on Skin and feeling that everyone present was at once deeply moved and aware that something very special had just happened. And in a time where quality and courage are so often under pressure, it has been astonishing to see these virtues triumph as this masterpiece has travelled the world with a speed unparalleled in modern operatic history.

I am truly grateful that George, together with Martin Crimp, is writing his next major opera for us at Covent Garden, with six major partner opera houses around the world, and it has been a fascinating journey for me to be in conversation with George and Martin from the very first moments of discussion about this new piece. I think they have found an extraordinary subject and given it a treatment that feels deeply original and should make for an evening of exciting music theatre. I can’t wait to witness the result of that journey in May 2018 at the Royal Opera House.’

As with Written on Skin, George Benjamin will conduct all performances at the Royal Opera House. 

British director Katie Mitchell, returns to work with George Benjamin, having directed the world and UK premieres of Written on Skin. At the Royal Opera House she has also directed Clemency and Parthenogenesis for ROH2 and Lucia di Lammermoor for The Royal Opera. Designs are by Vicki Mortimer, who designed Written on Skin and Lucia di Lammermoor for Katie Mitchell.

 The cast will feature French baritone Stéphane Degout, most recently seen at the Royal Opera House as Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) alongside Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan, who created the pivotal role of Agnès in Written on Skin.

Joining them will be British tenor Peter Hoare, whose recent roles for The Royal Opera include Normanno (Lucia di Lammermoor) and Dr Caius (Falstaff); Hungarian-Romanian baritone Gyula Orendt (who created the title role in The Royal Opera’s production of Orfeo at the Roundhouse in 2015); and British tenor Samuel Boden who made his Royal Opera debut in 2014 singing the title role in L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe.

Also joining the cast are British soprano Jennifer France, Icelandic bass-baritone Andri Björn Róbertsson, and Hungarian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, all making their debuts at Covent Garden.

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