First of all, the boy draws on parchment, which is made from animal skin.Martin and I requested to view a thirteenth-century document in The British Library.
George Benjamin (1960) is composer in focus of the coming Holland Festival.
Apart from the Dutch premiere of his recent opera ‘Lessons in Love & Violence’ there’s a semi-staged performance of ‘Written on Skin’.
When the boy starts an affair with his wife Agnes, he kills him and forces her to eat his heart. Benjamin and librettist Martin Crimp present the characters as a kind of archaeologists, who summon up the old story and simultaneously bring it to life.
When I meet George Benjamin on Wednesday 26 September, he has just been rehearsing with the Nederlands Kamerorkest (Dutch Chamber Orchestra) for four hours.
A metaphor, of course, but with an erotic undertone. Opera is intrinsically unnatural, but a hundred years after Puccini we live in a film age.
I find it absolutely unconvincing to see people singing on stage while behaving in a naturalistic way as in a Hollywood production.Certainly no leitmotifs, for I hate those: it’s as if the characters continually present their business cards, as Debussy once joked.However, I do associate the characters with certain instruments.Once I’d found them, I invited them to my home, where I made an inventory of their possibilities.Apart from things such as colour, strength, agility and vocal range, I also noted what they like or don’t like to sing.But it is never obvious, it works on an unconscious level.