Which would you choose – Pleasure or Virtue?

Music inspired by an age-old tale of a young man facing a life changing decision features in Bath Recitals’ next concert which promises to be a Candlelit Spring Extravaganza…

The classical myth The Choice of Hercules dates back to the 5th-century and the Athenian sophist Prodicus. In his tale the youthful Hercules must decide between the paths of pleasure and virtue. In 1743 this inspired a poem by Robert Lowth in which the two pathways are represented by two women each trying to convince him with their various arguments. 

It sounds like a great storyline for an opera, a musical or a film, but in 1750 Handel wrote this as an Oratorio – probably because religious themes were not allow to be presented as ‘theatre’. But under England’s mid-18th century King George, our German-born composer Handel presented these simply as stories with music and they became hugely popular, even in theatres – as long as there was no dressing up or dancing! 

So along with Handel’s Messiah and his other popular oratorios, The Choice of Hercules went down a storm when it was first performed at London’s Royal Opera House on 1 March 1751.

Handel's Water Music -the performers

On 20 April the role of Hercules will be sung by counter tenor Neil Moore. Pleasure and Virtue will be sung by sopranos Angela Hicks and Eleonore Sian Cockerham. Pleasure’s attendant will be sung by tenor Michael Burgess. And all supported by a chorus, commenting on the drama as it unfolds and underpinned by an orchestra driving the music forward.


Running time of The Choice of Hercules is about 50 minutes and it promises to be a fabulous second half of this concert. Before the interval we have two of Handel’s favourites with Suite No.1 from Water Musicand his organ concerto The Cuckoo and the Nightingale.

Handel’s Water Music

The highlight of Bath’s Spring Season

St Michael’s Church, Broad St, Bath BA1 5LJ
20 April 2024, 7.30pm Tickets £14-£30

Handel: Water Music Suite No.1 F major
Handel: Concerto for Organ The Cuckoo and the Nightingale
Handel: The Choice of Hercules

Handel's Water Music

Supported by The Joyce Fletcher Charitable Trust