The accidental theft of Fire from the cruel man-child Zeus, President of Olympus, by young prankster Prometheus and his no-hoper brother Epimetheus leads to divine vengeance and punishment for one, but love and a fresh start for the other, and by bringing revolution to the heart of power, changes the world forever.
In 2016 I wrote an oratorio, Herakles, for choir, large orchestra, five solo singers, and a narrator (spoken). At the very end, the narrator, who plays the part of Time, a mystical storyteller, says: “Perhaps now I shall tell you the story of Prometheus... but no, that can wait for another time.” And so the idea for this opera, The Fire of Olympus came about! While the opera is a very different style of piece, two of my collaborators are the same; Anthony Peter my librettist, and Professor Emma Stafford, of Leeds University, our resident expert on all things ancient Greek.
Zeus is a horrid, overbearing, manipulative man-child, President of Olympus, and all-powerful. Prankster-activists Prometheus and Epimetheus accidentally steal his Fire, an ancient artefact that is the root of Zeus' might. He despatches his minions Hephaestus and Pandora to recover the Fire, but they plot against him. So we end up with tragedy, comedy, passion, and politics that I think are really resonant with our present “interesting times”. I did not think it was very “daunting”, as such, though – the stories from ancient Greece are so fundamental to our culture, they almost can’t help but be familiar, yet they teach us something new each time we hear them!
The main musical influence is Handel, specifically his “Italian” operas such as Giulio Cesare and Serse. There is also a strong personal, non-musical inspiration from Handel: his opera company in 18th century London, with which he directed many of his operas at the Queen’s Theatre, and practically defined the fashion for musical drama at the time. I would love to achieve something along those lines, in the modern world with my company Radius Opera. So alongside the theatrical performances we filmed The Fire, in a very cinematic, artistic way, and hope to use this popular contemporary art form (film) with the style of 18th century popular opera, to forge something new and with broad appeal.