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This recording captures the premiere of George Benjamin’s opera at Aix-en-Provence in 2012. Martin Crimp’s libretto is based on the lurid legend of Guillem de Cabestany (choose your own variant of the name), later used by Boccaccio in the Decameron: the Protector employs the Boy to illuminate a manuscript for him – the Boy has an affair with the Protector’s wife Agnès, and is then murdered by the Protector who forces his wife to eat the Boy’s heart, leading to Agnès’s suicide. Benjamin uses a framing device of three Angels to advance and comment on the main story, and also the Protector and Agnès provide self- commentary. I found this an alienating jolt in and out of the drama, but this is balanced by the claustrophobic intensity of the libretto and the atmospheric score, conducted by the composer. The vocal lines are highly singable, and Christopher Purves’s Protector anchors the drama with a subtle baritone. Bejun Mehta and Barbara Hannigan relish the erotic confrontations of the Boy and Agnès, her soprano soaring fearlessly. Superb diction throughout.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Opera Now, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing