Apollo et Hyacinthus, Opera by W. A. Mozart
Nowadays it is a rare pleasure to hear Apollo et Hyacinthus live, the earliest full opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was merely 11 years old at the time of composition, and yet the work showcases the greatness that he was about to achieve with his future contributions to the genre. Apollo et Hyacinthus debuted in 1767 at the Benedictine University in Salzburg, as intermezzo in the context of a larger performance of Clementia Croesi, a five-act tragedy by Rufinus Widl. This season, Gran Teatro La Fenice gives Mozart’s first proper operatic effort a well-earned moment in the spotlight. At Teatro Malibran, the Ancient Greek story of Apollo and Hyacinth will come to life once more.
Leopold Mozart’s connections at the Benedictine University granted young Wolfgang the chance to present a work of his own. Father Rufinus Widl not only authored the larger work, where Apollo et Hyacinthus appeared as an intermedio, but he also prepared the Latin libretto for Mozart’s opera. He based it on the popular story of the untimely death of Hyacinth, a beautiful youth who had a passionate affair with Apollo. To remove the reference of homosexual relations, Widl added the characters of Oebalus and Melia, Hyacinth’s father and sister, and made the latter into the Sun God’s true love interest. The main motif of the wrongful killing of a loved one moves the plot forward and provides the opera’s dramatic charge.
Keen listeners will identify many of Mozart’s characteristic techniques and stylistic chops in Apollo et Hyacinthus. The melodies, arias, and duets carry a distinct emotional value and serve a clear narrative purpose. Most vocal solo spots are da capo, but Mozart demonstrated creativity by omitting some of the repetitions, making the score even more dynamic and varied. Teatro Malibran’s audience is in for a special treat with this rare revival of a true gem from the Austrian prodigy’s early catalogue.