Dutch National Opera presents

Lessons in Love and Violence George Benjamin (1960)

This show was to been seen in June 2018

Power as heritage

Duration 1:40

By George Benjamin

Language English

Surtitles Dutch and English

‘A bolder, angrier, more tender George Benjamin’ ★★★★ The Guardian

‘The phenomenal Barbara Hannigan does what she always does, but does it brilliantly’  ★★★★ The Telegraph

'Lessons in Love and Violence: icy beauty and dramatic tension' ★★★★  Bachtrack


Following the overwhelming impact made by George Benjamin’s Written on Skin in 2012, Dutch National Opera presents his latest opera: Lessons in Love and Violence. Once again, the composer will be conducting the opera himself, and director Katie Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer are returning to assist him.

The story

A king is forced to choose between love and a tough political stance. He takes a fateful decision, plunging the country into civil war and turning his own wife and son irreconcilably against him. But once the son has learned a few painful lessons in realpolitik and the ‘surgical’ use of violence, he commits a terrible act of violence in front of his own mother – with the intention of making peace.


For Lessons in Love and Violence, George Benjamin and author Martin Crimp were inspired by the quick scene changes and the vulnerable, complicated characters of Elizabethan drama. Their new opera is therefore also concerned with the question of whether – and to what extent – the dangerous machinery of power leaves scope for love and affection.

Lessons in Love and Violence is accompanied by the Netherland Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the singers include well-known DNO guests like Stéphane Degout, Barbara Hannigan and Peter Hoare.

The oeuvre of George Benjamin, former student of Olivier Messiaen, stands out for its glittering array of timbres. His style is both original and accessible, and he bridges the gap between British tradition and contemporary music from the continent. In Martin Crimp, he has found the ideal partner for writing operas (Into the Little Hill, Written on Skin and now Lessons in Love and Violence).


Signing session

After the evening performance on Thursday, July 5, a signing session will take place immediately after the performance with: Barbara Hannigan (Isabel) and Stéphane Degout (King).

This signing session is only accessible to visitors with a ticket for that evening.

The orchestra

The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1945, is an essential link in Dutch musical life. The orchestra performs especially programmed symphonic concerts and concertante opera productions. An important part of its repertoire is formed by Dutch premieres and world premieres. Most of the orchestra’s concerts take place as part of the concert series AVROTROS Friday concert (TivoliVredenburg Utrecht), NTR Saturday Matinee and The Sunday Morning Concert (The Concertgebouw), and are broadcast live on NPO Radio 4. Since 2012, the principal conductor has been Markus Stenz. In 2018, the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra will be performing Lessons in Love and Violence.

George Benjamin

Muzikaal leider

Olivier Messiaen described George Benjamin as his favourite pupil. In his youth Benjamin was not only inspired by Messiaen but also by other French composers, including Berlioz and Debussy, though his early loves also included Beethoven, Mahler and Ligeti.

Katie Mitchell


KATIE MITCHELL (director) studied in Oxford. The English director is known for her raw interpretations of the theatre and opera repertoire.

Team & Cast

George Benjamin
Martin Crimp
Stage Director 
Katie Mitchell
Set & Costume Designer 
Vicki Mortimer
Lighting Designer 
James Farncombe
Movement Director 
Joseph Alford
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Stéphane Degout
Barbara Hannigan
Gaveston/ Stranger 
Gyula Orendt
Peter Hoare
Boy/Young King 
Samuel Boden
Witness 1/ Singer 1/ Woman 1 
Jennifer France
Witness 2/ Singer 2/ Woman 2 
Krisztina Szabó
Witness 3 / Madman 
Andri Björn Róbertsson
Ocean Barrington-Cook

Lessons in Love and Violence is a Holland Festival production.

Co-produced with: Royal Opera House - Covent Garden (London), Hamburgische Staatsoper, Opera national de Lyon, Lyric Opera (Chicago), Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona), Teatro Real (Madrid)