Skip to main content

Lessons in Love and Violence

George Benjamin, De Nationale Opera

A king is forced to choose between love and the harsh reality of politics. He makes a fatal decision, after which his people and his family gruesomely turn on him. George Benjamin is the composer in focus at this year's festival, reflecting especially on his journey through the world of song and music theatre, building up to this new opera. Lessons in Love and Violence (2018), coproduced with Dutch National Opera, is conducted by the composer himself. Director Katie Mitchell and librettist Martin Crimp are also returning. The casts consists of baritone Stéphane Degout and tenor Peter Hoare as well as top soprano Barbara Hannigan.


Mon June 25 2018 8:00 PM

Wed June 27 2018 8:00 PM

Fri June 29 2018 8:00 PM

Sun July 1 2018 2:00 PM

Tue July 3 2018 8:00 PM

Thu July 5 2018 8:00 PM


  • English

  • Duration of performance unknown (geen pauze)

After the overwhelming success of Written on Skin in the 2012/13 season at the Dutch National Opera, British composer George Benjamin returns with Lessons in Love and Violence, his long-

After the overwhelming success of Written on Skin in the 2012/13 season at the Dutch National Opera, British composer George Benjamin returns with Lessons in Love and Violence, his long-

awaited third opera. Lessons in Love and Violence, created in collaboration with his regular librettist Martin Crimp, will have its Dutch premiere during the Holland Festival 2018, with the composer himself conducting the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. The high-profile British director, Katie Mitchell, who also directed Written on Skin, will again be in charge of the staging, with designer Vicki Mortimer once more partnering her for this production. Benjamin is also this year’s Composer in Focus. The high-profile British director, who also directed Benjamin’s Written on Skin, will again be in charge of the staging. Designer Vicki Mortimer will once more partner her in this production. 


For Lessons in Love and Violence Benjamin and Crimp have taken inspiration from the swift scene-changes and complex characterization of Elizabethan drama, a specifically British style of Renaissance theatre which attained great fame and influence thanks to the work of dramatists such as Shakespeare and Marlowe. In their new opera the composer and librettist probe the question of whether there is space for human love and affection at the heart of power. 


The story: a king is forced to choose between love and hard-headed political expediency, and makes a fatal choice. He allows his country to slide into civil war, thereby antagonizing his own wife and son and turning them irreconcilably against him. Once the son has also learned the painful lessons of realpolitiek, he commits a terrible act of violence in front of his mother, with the aim of restoring peace.


After her incredibly successful interpretation of Agnès in Benjamin’s second opera Written on Skin, the Dutch-Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan plays a central role in Lessons in Love and Violence. Her most important antagonist is the young French baritone Stéphane Degout, whose performance in the Dutch National Opera’s production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (2016) was widely praised, and who in 2017 also impressed critics with his performance of the title role in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in the Dutch NTR Saturday Matinee series. British tenor Peter Hoare, who in 2017 played in the Dutch National Opera revival of Rastakov’s A Dog’s Heart, will also be performing.


Lessons in Love and Violence is a co-production of the Holland Festival with the Dutch National Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Hamburg State Opera, the Opéra de Lyon, the Lyric Opera, Chicago, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona and the Teatro Real, Madrid. 


As this year’s Composer in Focus George Benjamin has a central place in the Holland Festival 2018. The programme includes a Proms concert featuring the range of his symphonic oeuvre, while in June there will be a semi-staged revival of his internationally acclaimed second opera Written on Skin. Benjamin’s chamber opera Into the Little Hill, with a libretto by Crimp, was performed at the 2007 Holland Festival.

Read less


music George Benjamin musical direction George Benjamin libretto Martin Crimp direction Katie Mitchell set design, costume Vicki Mortimer light design James Farncombe director of movement Joseph Alford orchestra Radio Philharmonic Orchestra soloists Stéphane Degout, Barbara Hannigan, Gyula Orendt, Peter Hoare, Andri Björn Róbertsson, Jennifer France, Krisztina Szabo, Samuel Boden production Dutch National Opera coproduction Dutch National Opera, Royal Opera House - Covent Garden (London), Hamburgische Staatsoper, Lyric Opera, Opera national de Lyon

This performance is made possible by