George Benjamin’s defence of opera

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Killing it at Covent Garden

ALL-ACTION and surround-sound, opera was the 19th-century equivalent of cinema—and, some say, is now obsolete in an era of higher-tech entertainment. The suggestion that it might be outmoded draws a furious response from George Benjamin (pictured). “It’s the most thrilling and immediate form,” says the British composer, one of the few anywhere to be producing new operas that win both critical acclaim and wide audiences. “How could the art of setting stories to music ever become irrelevant?”

Striking, then, that his operas dwell in the remote past. His latest, “Lessons in Love and Violence”, premiered at the Royal Opera House in London on May 10th. In it, he and Martin Crimp, his librettist, retell the story of Edward II, a 14th-century English king, and his supposed lover Piers Gaveston. Their previous collaboration, “Written on Skin”, revisited an obscure Provençal tale of cannibalistic sexual possession.

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