The Fire of Olympus – film premiere review

Saturday 16th November saw the world premiere of the film The Fire of Olympus. Held in the splendid surrounds of Leeds University’s Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, the screening was preceded by a Q&A session chaired by Prof. Derek Scott (Leeds School of Music), with contributions from composer Tim Benjamin, Music Director Ellie Slorach, tenor Michael Jones (Hephaestus), and Dr Emma Stafford (Classical Civilisation adviser, Leeds School of Languages, Cultures and Societies). This lively session provided a great introduction to the film, with discussion of how the story and the music were developed, the experience of performing the opera, and the practicalities of translating the live stage version to the screen.  The film itself was riveting, from the desolation of the opening sequence, portraying a post-apocalyptic world, and Prometheus’ irresistible invitation ‘Hear my story…’, through the drama of Prometheus’ and Epimetheus’ rebellion against Zeus’ autocractic authority, the scheming of Hephaestus, and Pandora’s journey from lackey to rebel. The story was given impetus throughout by the fabulous ‘modern Handelian’ score, sweeping the audience along on an emotional journey from the cheery overconfidence of Zeus’ address to the people, to Epimetheus’ stirring cries of ‘Revolution!’, to the soulful lament of the imprisoned Prometheus, with some unexpectedly humorous recitative moments along the way.  The very un-Handelian unseen chorus of thousands felt more seemlessly integrated with the soloists than in the live show, providing sound effects and atmospheric background as well as performing the more conventional function of commenting on the action. The visual possibilities of film, with different camera-angles, close-ups on the protagonists faces, and the inclusion of material from beyond the confines of the stage, all served to make the viewing experience more all-encompassing than watching the live performance – which should appeal to a wider audience than that of traditional opera.

For reviews and news of further screenings, as details become available, keep an eye on the Radius Opera website and subscribe to their mailing list.