Classical Opera - Apollo et Hyacinthus - MusicWeb International
01 July 2012MusicWeb International
Mozart wrote Apollo et Hyacinthus in 1767 for
performance at the Salzburg Grammar School as an intermedium
- a short musical entertainment - separating Acts of
the school play. The libretto by Father Widl, Professor of Syntax
at Salzburg University, was based loosely on an episode in Ovid.
It tells of the rivalry between Zephyrus and the disguised god
Apollo for the love of Melia, daughter of King Oebalus. Hyacinthus,
Melia's brother and a friend of Zephyrus, is killed by
the latter during a game of discus. Zephyrus blames it on Apollo
who punishes him by turning him into a wind. Hyacinthus, discovered
to be dying rather than dead, explains that it was the fault
of Zephyrus. Apollo turns Hyacinthus into a flower and expresses
his hope of marrying Melia.
Although this is hardly the most dramatic or involving of plots
it did provide Mozart with plenty of dramatic situations suitable
for music. It was Mozart's first real opera and even at
eleven he showed himself able to provide striking and inventive
music for each of them. It is assured and, to a surprising degree,
memorable, especially in the two duets and in his occasional
use of divided violas.
Ian Page and Classical Opera have long experience of this work.
I remember seeing them perform it at the Buxton Festival in
2006 with a different cast. Like them, the present cast have
a full understanding of the potential dramatic power of the
work. There are no weak links, with all making the most of the
musical and dramatic opportunities provided. If I mention Andrew
Kennedy and Klara Ek specifically, it is simply to praise their
outstanding contributions rather than to suggest any deficiencies
in the singing of Sophie Bevan, Christopher Ainslie or Lawrence
Zazzo. The orchestra, very properly named in full in the booklet,
play with gusto and sensitivity. One especially welcome feature
is the use of the cello to play spread chords in the recitatives
leaving the double bass to play the bass line.
Mention of the recitatives does however bring me to the question
of their length. In an opera lasting only some 77 minutes, nearly
a third is taken up with sections of recitative in Latin. Even
performed as dramatically as they are, and with the fascinating
cello chords, this may prove something one would not want to
hear repeatedly. That is easily accomplished albeit with the
result that one listens to a series of arias and ensembles rather
than to an opera, but that is a matter for the listener to choose.
The recording and presentation of the set could hardly be improved,
with articles on the opera and its performance and the text
and translations in full. The only regrettable omission is that
of any biographical information on the singers. Some is available
on a film on the Linn website but when the singers are as good
as this it is at least a discourtesy on the part of Linn not
to include something in the lengthy booklet.
That is however the only fault I can find in this splendid version
of an unfairly neglected work. I must admit to finding it and
other early Mozart operas uncompelling in the past but that
is emphatically not the case here. I cannot imagine a better
start to Linn's intended series of recordings of Mozart's
operas by Classical Opera.
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Related LinksClassical OperaLawrence ZazzoSophie BevanMozart: Apollo et Hyacinthus