by Jessica Zammit

George Benjamin. Photograph by Matthew Lloyd

05 June 2019

Could you tell us a little more about Written on Skin and what musical ideas came to mind when you first read through Martin Crimp's libretto?

Concrete ideas only usually come to me when I begin to write the music in full, rarely before. I usually wait a few months after receiving Martin’s complete text before starting to compose, in order to properly digest and assimilate his words and the structure in which they’re set. What did strike me about this text, however, from very first encounter, was the tautness and clarity of its form, the intensity of its narrative and the very particular atmosphere that Martin had conjured. These, in turn, would be extremely important for the finished score.

What do you hope audiences will discover about Written on Skin and what do you hope that they will take away with them after experiencing the opera?

I cannot say; each individual member of the audience, in my view, should be absolutely free to interpret and understand the work in their own way – I would hate to attempt to prescribe anything. I would nevertheless be happy if, in some way, the work created a resonance within people attending a performance, and even on occasion move them.

How closely did you work with Martin in bringing Written on Skin to life, and how would you describe the composer-writer relationship in general?

Fortunately our working relationship has been happy and harmonious. Initially we collaborate very closely in the search for the subject matter and the right musico-dramatic idiom in which to present it. However, beyond that, it’s extremely clear: he writes the words and then I write the notes!

Scene 6 of Written on Skin features in the National Opera Studio contemporary scenes production Voices of Now (Friday 7 June, 7.30pm; Saturday 8 June, 3.00pm, 7.30pm).

Find out more and book tickets