Dutch National Opera presents

Lessons in Love and Violence George Benjamin (1960)

Power as heritage

Duration 1:40

By George Benjamin

Language English

Surtitles Dutch and English

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.

In short

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.


Team & Cast

Musical director 
George Benjamin
Stage director 
Katie Mitchell
Sets and costumes 
Vicki Mortimer
James Farncombe
Director of movement 
Joseph Alford
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Stéphane Degout
Barbara Hannigan
Gyula Orendt
Peter Hoare
Andri Björn Róbertsson
Jennifer France
Krisztina Szabo
Samuel Boden


For Lessons in Love and Violence, George Benjamin and his librettist 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).



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.

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)