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Written on Skin

The Royal Opera

George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s opera is one of the greatest triumphs in contemporary music of recent years.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of Written on Skin. It was last on stage 13–30 January 2017 as part of the Winter 2016/17 season.

The Story

A powerful Protector commissions a young artist to create an illuminated book to celebrate his power. The book, and its artist, spark the rebellion of the Protector’s submissive wife Agnès.

Read more… (Contains spoilers)


George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s Written on Skin is one of the most successful new operas of recent times. Since its premiere at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2012 it has been performed worldwide in numerous productions, to widespread acclaim. The Royal Opera’s performances in 2013 of Katie Mitchell’s original production were no different; it received five-star reviews across the board and was described as ‘a musical masterpiece’ by The Guardian and ‘a serious and important work of art… music of genius’ by The Telegraph.

Written on Skin draws on a 12th-century Occitan legend about the troubadour Guillem de Cabestaing. Crimp’s text pulls out the story’s enduring themes of love, passion and violence, with a contemporary twist: mysterious 21st-century angels watch over the enfolding drama. Benjamin’s strikingly beautiful score – compared to Pelléas et Mélisande and Wozzeck – moves with breathtaking agility from moments of heightened stillness to unmistakable brutality.

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