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Spanish Premiere of George Benjamin's Lessons in Love and Violence

Apr. 01, 2021

Lessons in Love and Violence, George Benjamin’s third opera with Martin Crimp, received its Spanish premiere on February 26, 2021 at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona  Stéphane Degout, Georgia Jarman and Peter Hoare reprised their roles as King, Isabel and Mortimer, while Daniel Okulitch made his role debut as Gaveston. Josep Pons conducted and Dan Ayling revived Katie Mitchell's original production, with set design and costumes by Vicky Mortimer.

After six performances in Barcelona, the production transfers to Madrid’s Teatro Real where it will open on April 30.

Based on medieval sources, Lessons in Love and Violence relates the all-consuming relationship between Edward II of England and his lover Piers Gaveston, which disrupts court life and the political well-being of the country, showing us the fatal political consequences personal attachments can have, for the King also has a close but troubled relationship with his wife Isabel and his two children. The opera was co-commissioned and co-produced by the Royal Opera Covent Garden London, Dutch National Opera Amsterdam, Hamburg State opera, Opéra de Lyon, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona and Teatro Real Madrid.

The work contiues to receive outstanding critical acclaim:

“Shocking, dark, dazzling… Benjamin could not have received a better version from the pit than the analytical, almost surgical reading from Pons. The suggestive and imaginative colour palette – a hallmark of Benjamin’s orchestration – brought nuance to the drama; drums, cimbalom and celesta brought magical atmospheres of original theatricality… The strings, the punctilious and lively brass, and above all the orchestral interludes where the orchestra exploded in expressive sonorities that articulated the drama with an intoxicating lyricism. The singers were impeccable, perfectly imbricated in a texture which never sounded forced… A total spectacle that confirms Opera as a fully contemporary language. Violence, power and love continue to strike our consciences without having learned their lesson.”
  -- La Vanguardia (Jordi Maddaleno), February 28, 2021

“A composition full of beauty, of a tremendous expressive and emotional force, that leaves no one indifferent to the vision of human nature it presents through Crimp’s fine and sensitive adaptation of Marlowe… Without a doubt this is an extraordinary work… Pons gave body and soul to the score and allowed us to appreciate Benjamin’s tremendous palette of musical colours… An exceptional, unmissable, work.”
  -- Platea (Javier del Olivio), February 27, 2021

“…the invention is amazing. The highly worked-out, intelligent understanding between composer, writer, conductor, and director made it seem that only this music could enliven this text, and the action described could only credibly be developed in the this exquisitely arranged and choreographed production… Pons got the best out of the orchestra: brilliance in the high strings, incisive winds and lashing brass; and a wealth of timbres reinforced by unusual instruments… Benjamin and Crimp’s brilliant treatment of the material makes this work a profound, dazzling, powerful and true lesson of what contemporary opera should be. It’s also a wakeup call for those who question the validity of the genre in the present time.”
  -- Scherzo (José Luis Vidal), March 1, 2021

“Successful composers of contemporary opera are a very rare thing these days, but that’s what we are dealing with here… Elegant music… especially attentive to the plot and the singers’ voices… The dramatic interest of the work comes down to the perfect conjunction of the drama and interesting vocal writing… Pons gave a marvellous interpretation of great vitality which captured the many peculiar timbres… An interesting and complex work.”
  -- Beckmesser (Fernando Sans Rivière), March 1, 2021


(An excerpt from George Benjamin's Lessons in Love and Violence performed by Barbara Hannigan at the Royal Opera House)

To learn more about George Benjamin, please visit fabermusic.com

George Benjamin
Lessons in Love and Violence (2017)
opera in two parts
text by Martin Crimp
90’

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