Sunday 30th April 2017 saw the world premiere of Tim Benjamin’s thrilling musical drama Herakles in Todmorden Town Hall. It was performed by the substantial forces of Todmorden Choral Society and Todmorden Orchestra, together with a number of professional instrumentalists; five outstanding professional singers played the roles of Zeus, the mercurial Hermes, and the two terrifying Titans, Royalty and Tyranny; and the story was masterfully narrated by the professional actor who portrayed Time herself. The Town Hall was full to capacity with an audience whose high expectations were not disappointed:
a wonderful collaboration of ideas from a group of incredibly talented people
This work deserves many more performances!
the interpretation of the music goes very well together with the academic research that underlies it
Excellent – a work that must be a candidate for a professional performance and recording – 5*
The narrative of Herakles is based 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. Benjamin’s version follows a re-telling of the story by Dio Chrysostom in his Discourse on Kingship, delivered to the new Roman Emperor Trajan in 98CE.
We are introduced to Herakles in his childhood – portrayed by a treble – 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.
In a twenty-first century twist, the choice is framed as one between two extremes which the young everyman Herakles rejects. Instead asserting a mortal right to free self-determination. The contemporary message is complemented by the contemporary take on the traditional oratorio form.
If you missed the premiere, don’t worry! The performance was recorded, and the film will be released on Saturday 8th July 2017 at an event in the Clothworkers Concert Hall, University of Leeds. This will be part of the programme for the conference Celebrating Hercules in the Modern World, but also be open to the public. After this the film will be made more widely available (details to follow).
On 8th July 2017, the film will be shown, preceeded by a wine reception and talk by the composer, Tim Benjamin. Reception at 19:00, talk at 19:15, followed by the film at 19:45, event to conclude by 21:45. For tickets including a glass of wine (£8; unwaged concession £5; student £3), either buy online (by credit or debit card) from the University Store, or email HerculesProject@leeds.ac.uk to reserve a ticket to pay for in cash on the day
Resources to accompany the performance and support its performers 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. The Hercules Project has a recorded interview with Tim Benjamin which discusses the compositional process, musical influences and the attraction of the hero Herakles.
Resources to accompany the performance and support its performers are now on the Resources page.
Narrator: Claire Benedict
Herakles: Zachary Smith (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
Interview with Tim Benjamin on the compositional process (21 mins 49 secs):