Music by George Benjamin
Libretto by Martin Crimp
Written on Skin is an opera by the British composer George Benjamin.
Benjamin's first full-length opera, it was premiered at the 2012 Aix-en-Provence Festival as a commission from five opera centres, and received its British premiere at the Royal Opera House in London in March 2013 and its Paris premiere at the Opéra-Comique in November that year; Benjamin conducted for all of these premiere seasons.
The libretto by Martin Crimp, who also wrote the libretto for Benjamin's first opera Into The Little Hill, is based on legend of the troubadour Guillaume de Cabestanh; the story is also repeated in The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio. The action takes place in 13th-century Provence.
The opera is divided into 15 scenes. The Protector (a rich land-owner) pays the Boy (an artist) to create and illustrate a manuscript about his family. The Boy and the Protector's wife Agnès are attracted to each other. Incensed by the reawakened independence of his wife, the Protector murders the Boy and forces Agnès unwittingly to eat the heart of the Boy. Agnès commits suicide. 'Angels' comment throughout on the action from a modern-day perspective.
One reviewer described the music as "glistening, mysterious sounds" from the orchestra (which includes a viola da gamba) in "Benjamin's most vivid music to date, in a score embracing everything from sensuousness to explosive ferocity".
The success of the opera in performance has motivated the Royal Opera to commission a new full-length opera by Crimp and Benjamin, to be premiered in 2018. The title is not yet known.