Deutsche Oper Berlin

Written on Skin


Bismarckstraße 35, 10627 Berlin

George Benjamin


Based on a text from medieval sources, author Martin Crimp, composer George Benjamin and director Katie Mitchell succeeded with WRITTEN ON SKIN 2012 in creating a sensational parable about identity, love and the power of literature and art ... 

About the work
Three angels look back to a period in the past when books were precious artefacts with texts written on skin. One of the angels acts out the role of an olden-day illustrator who has been commissioned by the rich and powerful Protector to create a beautifully illuminated manuscript setting out the Protector’s biography. In his patron’s home the angel encounters Agnès, the Protector’s younger wife, who is still a virgin on account of her husband’s self-imposed abstinence. Despite this, he is jealous and keeps a close eye on her – to no avail, because Agnès begins an affair with the angel in his incarnation as an artist. The Protector learns of their relationship and kills the illustrator. Then he serves his unwitting wife the heart of her lover as part of a meal.

For the composer of WRITTEN ON SKIN, George Benjamin, English author Martin Crimp adapted one of the best-known stories from the France of the High Middle Ages. “Le cœur mangé”, the tale of a woman eating the heart of her lover, can be traced to a 12-century Occitan text reputedly written by a troubadour named Guillem de Cabestanh, although some sources suggest he came to the same gruesome end. Crimp’s text charting the gory ménage à trois is also a rumination on the power of art. Agnès is in awe of the illustrator’s talent for chronicling real events by means of images and even creating entire worlds from scratch. Yet it is the pictures, coupled with a declaration of love to Agnès in text form, that alert the Protector to his affair with his wife.

About the production
The world premiere of WRITTEN ON SKIN took place at the 2012 Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and was rapturously received. The work is a rare example of perfect text-composition symbiosis. A gripping story and precise, poetic language go hand-in-hand with an acutely theatrical score which, albeit thoroughly contemporary, also has the kind of full-bodied tonality that can rivet a broad range of audiences. Katie Mitchell’s visually powerful and psychologically accurate production has toured widely on the international circuit and now comes to Berlin for the first time.


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Deutsche Oper Berlin

Bismarckstraße 35, 10627 Berlin-Charlottenburg

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