The acclaimed opera ‘Written on Skin’, created collaboratively by King’s College London composer George Benjamin and playwright Martin Crimp, has been described as ‘a landmark event in contemporary theatre’ when it premiered in Britain at the Royal Opera House. In this opening event of the Festival, Composer and author discuss collaboration and opera with Festival Director Max Saunders.
'Written on Skin' is being released on DVD and Blu-ray in January on the Opus Arte label
Born in London, George Benjamin studied in Paris with Olivier Messiaenand Yvonne Loriod and at King’s College, Cambridge, under Alexander Goehr.
His music is performed worldwide, and there have been recent retrospectives of his work in Madrid, Paris, Lucerne, London, Aldeburgh, San Francisco and Frankfurt.
His first opera, Into the Little Hill (text by Martin Crimp) toured Europe following its premiere at the Festival d'Automne in Paris in 2006; their second collaboration, Written on Skin, had an acclaimed premiere at the 2012 Aix-en-Provence Festival.
As a conductor, Benjamin has worked with leading orchestras and ensembles including the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Mahler Chamber, Philharmonia, Cleveland and Concertgebouw orchestras and the Berlin Philharmonic, in repertory ranging from Schumann and Wagner to Knussen and Grisey. His operatic conducting includes Pelléas et Mélisande (La Monnaie, Brussels) and Into the Little Hill (Europe tour).
He is Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King’s College London, a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, and has been awarded honorary fellowships by the GSMD, the RAM and the RCM.
Martin Crimp was born in 1956 and began writing for theatre in the 1980’s. His plays include Play House (2012), The City (2008), Fewer Emergencies (2005), Cruel and Tender (2004 ¾ written for Luc Bondy), Face to the Wall (2002), The Country (2000), Attempts On Her Life (1997), The Treatment (1993), Getting Attention (1992), No One Sees the Video (1991), Play with Repeats (1989), Dealing with Clair (1988), and Definitely the Bahamas (1987).
His translations include Gross und Klein (2012), Rhinoceros (2007), The False Servant (2004), The Triumph of Love (1999), The Maids (1999), The Chairs (1997), Roberto Zucco (1997), a new version of The Seagull (2006) for London’s National Theatre, and a contemporary adaptation of The Misanthrope (1996).
The Treatment was winner of the 1993 John Whiting Award, and in 2005 he received Italy’s Premio Ubu for the Fewer Emergencies trilogy.
His work in the UK has been produced by The Royal Shakespeare Company, The National Theatre, The Almeida, The Young Vic, Theatre de Complicité and the London’s Royal Court Theatre, where he was writer-in-residence in 1997.
His work is translated into many languages and producers outside the UK include Milan’s Piccolo Teatro, The Sala Beckett in Barcelona, the Vienna Festival, the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Théatre de la Ville, the Berliner Ensemble, Berlin’s Schaubühne, and the Festival d’automne à Paris, which presented four of his works in their 2006 season, including his first short text for opera, Into the Little Hill, written for George Benjamin.
In New York his work has been seen at the Public Theater, at Classic Stage, and on Broadway (his translation of The Chairs, directed by Simon McBurney).
In 2007 Attempts on her Life was revived on the Lyttleton stage of London’s National Theatre, directed by Katie Mitchell; and in December 2012 his latest play, In The Republic of Happiness, opened at the Royal Court, directed by Dominic Cooke.
This event will be followed by a reception.