Classical Opera - Apollo et Hyacinthus - The Times (Live Review)

I would like to have seen Zephyrus, the baddie, torn apart by the four winds, but you can’t expect everything if you’re staging Mozart’s very youthful opera Apollo et Hyacinthus on a low budget in a constricted space. And Ian Page’s Classical Opera presentation offered so much else of greater value, like the music itself, astoundingly skilled from such a young pen; and the gusto of Page’s singers, dressed in smocks; and the orchestra’s slimline bounce.

First we basked in Classical Opera’s fire in another creation of the sprite Mozart, the pocket Easter oratorio Grabmusik, shaped as a dialogue between an angel and a soul lamenting Christ’s death. Thomas Guthrie’s simple staging, featuring much clutching of a swaddled baby, emphasised the tenderest human feelings, although these scarcely needed underlining with vital young soloists such as Gemma Summerfield and Benjamin Appl.

Summerfield’s ringing soprano found a wider showcase in the opera’s role of Hyacinthus, the mythical lad and Apollo’s beloved, killed by a discus accident but reborn as a bank of flowers. We didn’t see the flowers either, although the designer Rhiannon Newman Brown managed a nifty thunderbolt from long strips of curtain and lighting. Other vocal standouts were Klara Ek, impassioned as Melia, the hero’s sister, and Benjamin Hulett as their father, King Oebalus, whose day begins with a lightning strike and doesn’t get better.

Extra volts of electricity would have helped James Hall’s Zephyrus, who never resounded as a villain should. Mozart, however, didn’t give him the very best music; that was reserved for Melia, Oebalus and Tim Mead’s Apollo, powerfully airing emotions in the last act’s brilliantly shaped and penetrating duets. And all this written by a pocket genius, 11 years old? I doff my cap and bend the knee.

The Times
14 June 2017