Magazine article Opera Canada

Opera Philadelphia

Magazine article Opera Canada

Opera Philadelphia

Article excerpt

I first encountered George Benjamin's elegant, eerie Written on Skin on video--a vivid souvenir of its Royal Opera run in Mar. 2013, in the same Katie Mitchell/ Vicki Mortimer production that had introduced it at Aix-en-Provence the previous July. My second encounter, this time in the flesh, was in that same, original skin, at the Lincoln Center Festival of summer 2015; and the Mitchell/Mortimer staging--which has played in venues as diverse as the Opera-Comique and the Bolshoi--strengthened its grip on the title 'definitive.' But the proof of a good opera, like that of a good play, is its skill at shape-shifting, its ability to prosper, to newly intrigue, in varied guises; and in Opera Philadelphia's reinvention of mid-February (its first in the US), Benjamin's Skin--a love-triangular tragedy of the feudal Middle Ages, retold (or created by?) a crew of latter-day angels--strongly asserted its durability.

Once again the production team was British, but the handiwork of director William Kerley and his designer, Tom Rogers, looked and felt distinctly different; initially disconcerting (my loyalties can be stubborn), their vision lost little time drawing me in. Where the original offered rectilinear modernism, its trademark Mitchell/ Mortimer dual storeys, multiple rooms and concurrent actions evocatively lit; its Kerley/Rogers successor had the quirkier shapes and far bolder palette of a medieval triptych, folding and unfolding, looking more period-stylized, less cinematic but occasionally more 'real.'

It worked--mostly: I missed, for example, Mitchell's far subder, near-erotic murder scene, played in Philadelphia as an unwittingly (I'm assuming) comic chase. …

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