The Sunday Opera: "Lessons in Love and Violence" by George Benjamin from the Royal Opera House

Jul 5, 2018

Painting of Edward II and Piers Gaveston by Marcus Stone. (Isabel can be seen seated to the right.)

The Sunday Opera begins a series of productions from the UK this week (7/8  3:00 p.m.) with the world premiere of George Benjamin’s “Lessons of Love and Violence” which debuted at the Royal Opera House in May of this year.  

Benjamin, whose other recent work “Written on Skin” had a well-received production by Opera Philadelphia in February of this year, teamed once again with librettist Martin Crimp for “Lessons” which is based loosely on the doings of King Edward II who followed his own desires, culminating in disastrous effects for his family and a failed, wasteful, and oppressive reign.  This modern retelling of the events surrounding Edward feature Stephane Degout as “King,” Barbara Hannigan as Isabel, Gyula Orendt as Gaveston, Peter Hoare as Mortimer, and Samuel Boden as “Boy.”  The Royal Opera House Orchestra is conducted by the composer.  We’ll stay with the theme of kings after the opera when Michael Kownacky will feature works about King David and Henry V.  King David is an oratorio by Arthur Honegger that grew from incidental music he wrote for a play by Rene Marox.  It features two speaking roles, three soloists, and choral music.  The second piece is the well-known work by William Walton which began as the score for the film of Henry V starring Laurence Oliver.  Samuel West is the narrator in this “Shakespeare Scenario” that was restored and arranged by Christopher Palmer.