Written on Skin is anOPERA by the British composer George Benjamin. It was premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2012, and received its British premiere at the Royal Opera House in London in March 2013; Benjamin conducted for both of these premiere seasons.

The libretto by Martin Crimp is based on a legend of the troubadour Guillaume de Cabestanh;[1] the story is also repeated in The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio. The action takes place in 12th-century Provence. The wealthy Protector pays the Boy to create and illustrate a manuscript about his family. The Boy and the Protector's wife Agnès are attracted to each other. The Protector murders the Boy and forces Agnès to eat the Boy's heart. Agnès commits suicide. 'Angels' comment throughout on the action from a modern-day perspective.[2]

The success of theOPERA in performance has motivated the RoyalOPERA to commission a new full-length opera by Crimp and Benjamin, to be premiered in 2018. The title is not yet known.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere cast,[2] Aix-en-Provence

July 2012 (Conductor: George Benjamin)

English premiere cast,[4] Royal Opera House

16 March 2013 (Conductor: George Benjamin)

Agnès soprano Barbara Hannigan Barbara Hannigan
Protector bass-baritone Christopher Purves Christopher Purves
First Angel/Boy countertenor Bejun Mehta Bejun Mehta
Second Angel/Marie mezzo-soprano Rebecca Jo Loeb Victoria Simmonds
Third Angel/John tenor Allan Clayton Allan Clayton