Tim Benjamin

composer, writer, storyteller

The Fire of Olympus: Synopsis

Spoiler warning!

For more information about this opera and feature film, please see The Fire of Olympus

Act One

Olympus lies in ruins. Amid these shattered buildings shelter small bands of survivors, ruled over by the supposedly enlightened, wise rule of Zeus, President of Olympus – so they are repeatedly told. Righteous anger born from grief brings an insatiable desire for revenge. How can the weak take revenge on the mighty and hope to win?

Amid the ruins of Olympus
Amid the ruins of Olympus

An old man, Prometheus, a relic of an age forgotten, tells his story to the scattered survivors of the fall of Olympus. He tells of the tyranny of Zeus, of his henchman Hephaestus, and naive Pandora, a tale of revenge. We see the events of the distant past, as told by old Prometheus.
Zeus plots civil unrest, to spread terror in the population and cause the to cry for stronger leadership. His words in public bring comfort and reassurance; in private, we learn the cynical truth. Over all looms the banner of Olympus, a stark symbol of oppression in a bleak land of brutal concrete.

Prometheus (now young), with his brother Epimetheus, activists, break into the office of Zeus. they find a strange ornament: an ancient stone ball, filled with flames - this is Fire, the mysterious secret of Zeus’s power. They are discovered - Epimetheus escapes with the Fire, but Prometheus is caught, and imprisoned. Hephaestus quickly catches Epimetheus, but then - in a scheme of his own - releases him, with the Fire, as he has his own designs on the throne of Olympus, and sees opportunity in this moment of crisis.

Act Two

Hephaestus enjoys torturing a resistant Prometheus, seeking his true motives, to use them against Zeus. Zeus creates a trap: a bottle of evil and sickness, a marvel of Olympian craftsmanship he admires and treasures, like a shiny new toy. Zeus commands Pandora to find Epimetheus and seduce him, using the bottle. She is greatly offended by the indecent proposal, and plots her own revenge against Zeus.

Crossroads: Zeus plots against all, and all plot against Zeus. All is uncertain.

Allegory: an old man, tired, weary, faces a climb to the top of a hill. Demons beset him and tell him that it would be better not to start, than to begin and fail. But he starts anyway, and dies - with a smile on his face.

Allegory - an old man
Allegory - an old man

Hephaestus plots. Prometheus yields at last to his torture, and confesses: he seeks revenge, revenge upon Zeus for the murder of his parents. Hephaestus decides that it is time to allow the brothers to reunite, and to seize the Fire for himself. To Prometheus and Epimetheus, all seems to be lost. Each (having been deceived by Hephaestus) believes the other to be lost forever.

Pandora locates Epimetheus, engaged in a lonely protest occupying the Library of Olympus, mocked by passers-by. She takes pity on him, and overcomes the suspicions of Epimetheus, convincing him that she, too, has cause against Zeus. United, they toast Zeus’ demise and drink from the bottle he gave Pandora. They embrace and sleep together - evil emerges from the bottle and infects the world.

On waking, they see the results of their mistake, and, despairing, wonder what Prometheus would do. Pandora realises that she is, still, a senior figure in Olympus: she can take Epimetheus to see his brother in prison, and they can rescue him! Promethus, at first disbelieving of the truth, is at last freed. They sense victory is night, but without any idea how to use the mystical “Fire”, they sink again into despair.

Hephaestus arrives, trapping the three rebels in the prison. He confiscates the Fire and mocks them. He captures them and takes them to Zeus.

Hephaestus in 'The Fire of Olympus'
Hephaestus in 'The Fire of Olympus'

Act Three

Zeus puts on a show trial in front of all the world. He blames the “troublemakers” for the evil infecting the world, and claims that he will now mete out justice and restore peace to the world. The people, thankful, shout and hurl abuse at the prisoners. Zeus takes back the Fire, and mockingly allows Prometheus a chance to speak.

Prometheus, at first apparently contrite, spots his opportunity: he seizes the Fire, and hurls it to the ground, smashing it and releasing the secret of flame to the watching world. Zeus falls, pandemonium ensues.

Prometheus in 'The Fire of Olympus'
Prometheus in 'The Fire of Olympus'

Zeus, while weakened, is still mighty, and restores order in an instant. In fury, he exiles Pandora and Epimetheus to the wastelands. He condemns Prometheus to an eternity of agony, never to be released. At last he turns again to the people, to address them.

We return to the present, to the old, weary Prometheus, who has finished telling his story to the ragged band of survivors. The secret of Fire is at last spreading, the old world order has ended, and a new world begins, a world in which mankind forges its own destiny, free at last from the grip of the gods... Fire yet rages!