Apollo and Hyacinth

A small opera by Mozart for the students of the University of Salzburg

Apollo et Hyacinthus

Salzburg Festival 2006 Photo: Barbara Aumüller
1767
Salzburg
Apollo et Hyacinthus

Apollo et Hyacinthus

Salzburg Festival 2006 Photo: Barbara Aumüller

Certainly, the success of “The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment” served as an inspiration for the 11-year-old Mozart. He composed several marches and minuets, but also church music. Finally he received a commission for the composition of an instructional piece in Latin by the University of Salzburg. The libretto was written by the Benedictine friar Rufinus Widl, his drama “Clementia Croesi” served as a source. The opera by Mozart was named “Apollo et Hyacinthus seu Hyacinthi Metamorphosis”, shortened to: “Apollo et Hyacinthus” only after the death of the composer.

The opera by Mozart lasts approximately 1.5 hours and has three acts.

Greek Mythology: a Challenge

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s accomplishment with “Apollo et Hyacinthus” cannot be praised highly enough. The material itself proved to be a daunting challenge for the 11-year-old boy:

Apollo falls in love with Melia, daughter of Oebalus, king of the Lacedaemonia. The young god also craves the attention of the king’s son, Hyacinthus, and incites Hyacinthus’s friend Zephyrus to burning jealousy, because he is also in love with Melia. During a game of discus, Zephyrus severely injures Hyacinthus and blames Apollo, to divide Apollo and Melia.

Subsequently, Apollo turns Zephyrus into a gale and lets him blow away. However, after this Melia is convinced of Apollo’s guilt and spurns the god. The dying Hyacinthus is able to set things right. After his death, Apollo turns him into a sea of hyacinth flowers and wins Melia’s love.

The opera is Mozart’s early work and impossible to compare with his later operas. However, it paved the way for further commissions…