Personalities | George Benjamin | Modern Era | Opera
b. 1960, British
George Benjamin is known as a composer who takes his time. His teachers included Olivier Messiaen, who compared his student with Mozart, but Benjamin has always taken time over his work, often taking a number of years to complete works of a few minutes. His first full-scale opera, Written on Skin, became an instant classic after its premiere at Aix-en-Provence in 2012 and its transfer to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Tickets in London were impossible to come by (the ROH also used its occasional policy of lowering prices to make contemporary works more accessible to new audiences). Excitement about Benjamin’s meticulous and dramatically sensitive work was palpable: it was seen by many as an operatic game-changer with its psychologically astute libretto by Martin Crimp, its dramatic tautness, and its fusion of musical styles. As well as praising the impeccable orchestration, the critic Alex Ross noted ‘Written on Skin feels like the work of a genius unleashed’.
Written on Skin, Mahler Chamber Orchestra; George Benjamin, conductor; Nimbus Records NI 5885/6; Soloists: Barbara Hannigan (Agnes), Bejun Mehta (First Angel/Boy), Christopher Purves (Protector), Rebecca Jo Loeb (Second Angel/Marie), Allan Clayton (Third Angel/John)
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