Composer Tim Benjamin has been commissioned by Todmorden Choral Society to produce a new work, Herakles, which is based on the story of the “Choice of Herakles” as re-told by Dio Chrysostom in his Discourse on Kingship, delivered to the new Roman Emperor Trajan in 98CE.
The musical drama will be performed by Todmorden Choral Society and Todmorden Orchestra together with a cast of professional soloists at the premiere in Todmorden on 30 April 2017, with a further presentation in Leeds on 8 July 2017. Rehearsals began in January 2017 and further updates on progress will appear in the News section of this website. Details of how to purchase tickets will appear here.
Resources to accompany the performance and support its performers will appear below.
Tim Benjamin has a page on his own website which explains his take on the story and from which the text and vocal music can be downloaded.
Commissioned by Todmorden Choral Society, this contemporary take on the oratorio introduces us to Herakles in his childhood, before he becomes the famous hero of the twelve labours.
Destined to be a ruler of mankind, Zeus sends his son Herakles with Hermes, as a test, to the distant mountain eyrie of the Titans Lady Royalty and Lady Tyranny, to discover which he will choose as the model for his own future rule. The narrative is based on an ancient Greek tale of the young Herakles’ choice between Virtue and Vice, which was popular in Renaissance art, and set as a cantata by Bach. Composer Tim Benjamin’s version adds a twenty-first century twist, framing the choice as between two extremes which the young everyman Herakles rejects, to assert instead a mortal right to free self-determination.
The story is narrated by Time herself, and Herakles – still a boy at the time of this legend – is portrayed by a treble. They are joined by a cast of four outstanding soloists, for the roles of Zeus, the mercurial Hermes, and the two terrifying Titans, along with a large orchestra and Todmorden Choral Society, in a thrilling musical drama on a grand scale.
Narrator: Claire Benedict
Herakles: TBC (treble)
Lady Royalty: Rebecca Moon (soprano)
Lady Tyranny: Elspeth Marrow (mezzo-soprano)
Hermes: Jean-Pascal Heynemand (tenor)
Zeus: James Fisher (bass)
Music: Tim Benjamin
Words: Anthony Peter, Tim Benjamin, Emma Stafford
Conductor: Antony Brannick
Materials on the background to Dio Chrysostom’s version, the literary legacy of Prodicus’ original “Choice of Herakles” story and its artistic legacy after the renaissance will be posted here as they are produced:
- Booklet analysing the origin and development of the “Hercules’ Choice” story in literature and art (Booklet pdf download 1236kB)
- Pinterest Board with images of the Choice of Herakles
- Emma Stafford’s talk on the origins of the Choice of Herakles story and its interpretation in art, with slides (pdf download 1443kB)