The young British conductor Oliver Zeffman and his Melos Sinfonia are to take George Benjamin’s masterpiece on an international tour in October 2017 to venues including LSO St. Luke's in London and the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg
19 October - West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge
20 October - LSO St Luke’s, London
22 October - Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Young British conductor Oliver Zeffman, who founded the Melos Sinfonia in 2010 when he was just 16 years old, again shows his extraordinary audacity and rare ability to make things happen by creating a concert staging and tour of the ground-breaking opera Written on Skin, composed by George Benjamin and set to a text drawn from a 13th-century Occitan legend by Martin Crimp.
The performance of Written on Skin in St Petersburg will be the premiere in that city and comes about thanks to the support of Maestro Valery Gergiev, whom Zeffman has worked with, while the performance in Cambridge will be the first UK performance of this opera outside London. The London performance coincides with the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics. In collaboration with the Royal Opera House, the exhibition will create a vivid and immersive journey through nearly 400 years of opera and includes footage of Written on Skin. Zeffman and the Melos Sinfonia, which he founded to give young professional players and singers a chance to perform challenging music on important stages, have given the Russian premieres of a number of important 20th century works – including Maxwell-Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King, Walton’s Façade and Ligeti’s Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures.
Zeffman has invited Shadwell Opera Artistic Director Jack Furness to join him in bringing this landmark work to life on the concert platform and conducts the 60-strong Melos Sinfonia and five outstanding young soloists, hand-picked for the demanding roles, for an international tour to London, Cambridge and St Petersburg.
The five soloists are: Lauren Fagan (graduate of the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House), Ross Ramgobin (runner-up in the 2014 What’s On Stage Breakthrough in Opera Awards and nominated in the Young Artist category at the 2015 International Opera Awards), Patrick Terry (Loveday Song Prize in the 2017 Kathleen Ferrier Competition, and winner of the 2017 Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Award), Bethan Langford (Guildhall School of Music & Drama, young artist 2017/18 at the National Opera Studio) and Nick Pritchard (RCM, praised for his Lysander at the Aldeburgh Festival 2017 and his roles with English Touring Opera).
Oliver Zeffman: “I first saw Written on Skin in a concert performance at the Barbican in March last year. I was immediately gripped by the intensity and beauty of the music, as well by the inventive poetry of the text - and I decided then and there that I had to conduct the piece. I am excited to bring Written on Skin to new audiences: it is fundamental that the operatic canon is revisited often and performed widely. Audiences in St Petersburg are so curious about new and unfamiliar music, and I’m incredibly excited to be bringing this opera to the city where I was first a music student, and to the stage of the legendary Mariinsky Theatre, where I experienced so many revelatory performances as a student just four years ago.”
Director Jack Furness: “I’m so excited to be working on this production with Oliver Zeffman, I've heard about him for a long time and have been interested in working with him. Written on Skin is undoubtedly one of the greatest operas of recent years. Having previously staged Into the Little Hill, I know first-hand about the quality and complexity of the work of George Benjamin and Martin Crimp, and the particular performative and interpretative challenges that such work brings.”