1996 – Ulysses and the Wooden Horse – ABOUT

Ulysses and the Wooden Horse

Commissioned by W11 Opera in 1987 and revived in 1996. Also performed by other opera companies; please see its entry on the Revivals page.

Synopsis: The famous story of the Trojan Horse intertwined with the story of Helen and Paris, and the stealing of the Palladium, a meteorite that has the power to protect the Trojans against their Greek enemies.

Composer Timothy Kraemer  
Librettist Timothy Kraemer
Music Director Dominic McGonigal
Soloists Zeus, Ilus, Spotted Cow, King Priam, Paris, Husband, Arvad, Cassandra, Sinov, Sarpedon, Ulysses, Helen, Menelaus, Sinon, Agamemnon, Guard, News Reporter, Argus, Hector (Alpha), Hermes (1st Messenger)
Groups Chorus of Gods, Trojan Warriors, Trojan Wrestlers, Trojan Youths and Maidens, Greek Warriors, Greek Messengers, Greek Merchants
Orchestra Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cello, Alto Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Piccolo, Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Percussion, Piano, Electric Guitar, Bass Guitar, Drums, Synthesiser

Notes on Production: A humorous take on the story of the Trojan war, not faithful to Homer but with some fun additions.

Very straightforward music, easy to learn, uses pop, jazz and dance rhythms which offer scope for choreography. There is much unison singing and some simple two part harmonies.

The original W11 production involved an oversized wooden horse – but simpler staging and props would be also effective.. Age range 9-16 but ULYSSES has been performed by primary school casts in a reduced version.

Running time 60 minutes maximum.


In ancient Greece a tale is told of the love for a beautiful woman and a mighty war. The immortal Ilus, friend and messenger of the Gods, takes us on a journey through time. We are led back to the ancient world to a time before the great city of Troy was built. Ilus tells his tale from the beginning, how with the help of Zeus, King of Olympus, who sent a heavenly spotted cow, he discovered the magical site where the city of Troy would stand. Zeus gave the people of Troy a special gift, a magical Palladium, but he warned them that should the Palladium ever be taken from the city, then Troy would be destroyed.

Many years pass and we meet the ferocious Trojan Warriors led by their mighty King Priam and his charming son Paris.

Miles and miles away in ancient Greece the story of Helen, the legendary ‘face that launched a thousand ships’, is unfurled. She must choose a husband from the ranks of the mighty Grecian army. She hesitates, she wavers, the tension mounts and then she selects the hand of the youthful Menelaus. Menelaus is charmed by his bride but his attentions to her are somewhat lacking – he only really understands how to be a soldier. Frustrated by his apparent lack of concern, Helen is lured from her husband’s side by the charms of the wily Trojan Prince Paris and so she becomes a captive of Troy.

Devastated and desolate, Menelaus seeks the aid of the famous Greek hero Ulysses and his faithful hound Argus. Ulysses, determined to avenge Greek honour, calls a Council of War. The Grecian Armies are massed and the mighty hoards march upon Troy.

For ten years, the battle rages and neither force can grasp victory, until, with a little guidance and persuasion from the mischievous Gods, the stalemate is broken. Ulysses and Argus steal into the city of Troy by night and take the precious Palladium. Its disappearance causes chaos, but then, mysteriously, a huge wooden horse appears at the city gates led by a small boy. The boy, Sinon, explains the horse is a gift from the Gods. Eventually convinced, the warriors hold a party to celebrate their new present. Gradually becoming more and more intoxicated, the rowdy Trojans all fall asleep and under the cover of the night the Greek soldiers clamber out from the horse where they have been hiding and leap upon the unsuspecting Trojans. The Trojans are all slaughtered and the ancient city falls to her knees.

Menelaus wins back his Helen and Grecian honour is restored (as for Troy… well, that is another story).


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