George Benjamin and Martin Crimp?s second full-length opera ? following the acclaimed Written on Skin ? draws on the real-life relationship between Edward II and Piers Gaveston to explore how personal relationships can have fatal political consequences. The King lives in a close but uneasy relationship with his wife Isabel, their two children and his lover Gaveston. When the King banishes his military advisor Mortimer, he sets off a chain of devastating events. Benjamin?s richly-orchestrated score perfectly captures the drama?s intense emotions, while director Katie Mitchell provides a visually stunning contemporary staging, highlighting the timelessness of the opera?s main themes. The composer himself conducts a superb international cast. "? the music, written and compellingly conducted by Mr. Benjamin, is unapologetically modernist, while the libretto, by Mr. Crimp, is often cryptic. Without pandering, they?ve made another significant contribution to the art form. In the queen, Mr. Benjamin has created another remarkable role for Ms. Hannigan?s immense vocal gifts and comprehensive musicianship. He writes lines that shift from earthy emotionalism to angelic purity, knowing that this artist can handle those pivots. He takes advantage of her focused intonation and rhythmic precision to lend even anguished passages structural strength. But it?s Mr. Benjamin?s remarkable music that gives the work its charge: The writing is so lush, haunting and detailed ? radiant one moment, piercingly dissonant the next ? that you are continuously enveloped by the raucous beauty of the sounds." (New York Times)
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