Death and the Maiden: Madame X, Tim Benjamin’s New Opera That Explores The Dark Side of the Art World

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“…we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…”


In honor of Halloween, we’re featuring Death and the Maiden: Madame X, which explores the darker side of the art world.  Tim Benjamin’s new opera was featured at the 2014 Grimeborn Festival of New Opera, and was on tour in the North-West in August and September 2014.


The plot follows the story of Masetto and Zerlina, a young immigrant couple. They’re impoverished, cold, and starving. Masetto, a brilliant portrait artist, is being ripped off by his unscrupulous agent, and circling art collectors will not take ”no” for an answer. Shivering in a shabby loft, struggling to make ends meet, and exploited by the wealthy collectors Lady Brannoch and Mr Wilmore, Masetto lives for his art, protected only by his muse and love, Zerlina. Their plight becomes increasingly perilous, desperate, and deadly, until at last: revenge.


Composer Tim Benjamin attracted acclaim in 2013 with his opera Emily. He had this to say about his new work: “Madame X takes its musical inspiration from the Italian operas of Handel, and from the Jacobean “revenge plays”. The story features all the plotting, ghostliness, madness and catastrophe expected from the Jacobean influence. It is full of both dark and light, tragedy and comedy, with a strong set of intriguing characters. Just as the libretto plays on the history of Art and the English language, the music plays on the history and languages of Western classical music. It is a piece with many familiar musical reference points, transformed and combined into a brand new, exciting work for the opera stage.”


Although Madame X recently finished it’s haunting first run, future performances of the opera will be announced. Be the first to find out by following them on Facebook or join their mailing list! Take a look at these two haunting trailers which feature both Benjamin’s haunting carnivalesque compositions, as well as tidbits of dialogue which lay the groundwork for this striking new opera. Privacy settings dictate that the trailers will have to be watched on the Madame X website, but viewing is only a simple click away. 


The painting featured in the trailer, and throughout the opera, is a delightfully evil take on John Singer Sargent‘s “Portrait of Madame X.” You can also access more of Tim Benjamin’s ambient and electronic compositions on his Soundcloud Page.