Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New operas like "Written on Skin" highlight a longstanding divide

By David Patrick Stearns

Whether Written on Skin at New York's Mostly Mozart Festival or Cold Mountain at the Santa Fe Opera, reviews have been so polarized that one side is often baffled by the viewpoint of the other. People whose opinions I greatly respect think George Benjamin's British-imported Written on Skin is one of the great pieces of recent decades. I appreciate the music's craftsmanship and the opera's stagecraft in a medieval tale about a woman whose husband forces her to eat the heart of her lover. Yet it never reached me: Full of high-style framing devices (angels commenting from the beyond and characters referring to themselves in the third person), the piece kept me at a distance and seemed much more horrified with its climax than I was. [link]