WildKat PR is pleased to be welcoming back composer Tim Benjamin, who is returning with his latest project Life Stories: a double bill of new one-act operas, Silent Jack and Rest in Peace, set three centuries apart. With words by Anton Chekhov and Anthony Peter, sung by mezzo-soprano Taylor Wilson and bass James Fisher, and produced by Radius, the operas explore a woman and a man in 1720s England and 2020s Moscow respectively. Both protagonists tell their life stories in their final hours and carry themes of chance, loose words and how small life choices can impact your life overall.
Silent Jack tells the story of a noblewoman, wealth lost by her missing husband to the South Sea bubble, who takes up a new life as a highwayman to make ends meet. In this gripping chamber opera, we come face-to-face with “Silent Jack” and hear of her halcyon past and grim decline, until, sharing her final moments of life, we learn of the terrible discovery she has made.
This opera is presented in a direct, intimate format: the protagonist (played by Taylor Wilson) addresses the audience up-close and personally. With a focus on story-telling, it mixes humour and tragedy, accompanied by atmospheric music that draws on Purcell.
Rest In Peace is a contemporary adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Life through questions and exclamations”, a fascinating short story cunningly constructed entirely from snippets of speech from the protagonist’s life, from birth to death. Whereas Chekhov does not specify either the protagonist’s name or present situation, Radius have chosen to set the short story as the final moments of an old homeless man, Ezdeyev, as he reflects upon his life. These reflections gradually reveal to us how this man has arrived here. The drama (in English) is presented in a modern re-invention of Brechtian opera-theatre: both audience and accompanying musicians are vigorously encouraged to join in by the boisterous, comic, and tragic Ezdeyev. Tim’s music – requiring great flexibility from the singer – blends the tuneful influences of Weill and Eisler with sounds reminiscent of Shostakovich and Weinberg.
Life Stories will premiere at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester on 1st July and will thereafter embark on a tour of the North-West of England in Preston, Halifax and Todmorden culminating in a run of performances at Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival.
Tim Benjamin is a highly successful composer known for his works for opera, film and television including the critically acclaimed operas Madame X, which toured nationally in 2014, and Emily. More recently, he composed for the short film, By Example which was entered into the BFI 48 Hour Sci-Fi Challenge. When he’s not composing, he is also a teacher of music theory, an examiner in the same subject for ABRSM and the Artistic Director of Radius. Amongst this busy schedule, he is heavily in demand as a speaker and spoke at a TEDx talk in 2015.