Saturday, 13 May 2017


11-year old Mozart by J Vander Smissen
It was on this 13th day in May in the year 1767 that a prepubertal Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would premiere what has arguably been referred to as the composer’s first ‘true opera,’[1] “Apollo et Hyacinthus seu Hyacinthi Metamorphosis” for a grammar school attached to the Benedictine University.[2]

The 11-year old wunderkind, freshly returned to his native Salzburg after having spent some three years touring much of western Europe as a child prodigy alongside father Leopold and sister Maria Anna ‘Nannerl,’ [3] would receive commission for the work – originally intended as an Intermezzo in Latin for a 5-act youth drama “Clementia Croesi” [4] to be held at the grammar school (of which it should be noted Mozart was not enrolled as a pupil) – by it’s board officials who had heard of the young composer’s recent success under the Prince-Archbishop Sigismund von Schrattenbach the previous year, in which the wunderkind was tasked with setting a German-text oratory "Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebotes" (The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment) for the annual Lenten season to music. The challenge was Mozart's very first paid commission for composition. According to legend, the archbishop, who had heard of the wunderkind’s music, expressed some doubt that the petite composer worked alone – and suspected the influence of the senior Mozart, Leopold (Wolfgang’s father) in drafting his early scores.[5] To test his theory, he is said to have locked Mozart into a room in order for the young composer to complete the score without any external influence – which he did, much to the archbishop’s appeasement.

Now, it seemed the University at Salzburg wanted to bask in the glow of Herr Mozart’s spotlight. The one-and-a-half hour intermezzo Apollo und Hyacinth (so shortened after the composer’s death, at which time Nannerl entered it into her father’s catalogue of Mozart’s early works) has been likened by music scholars as potentially being Wolfgang’s first opera. It contains five arias, two duets, a chorus and a trio (with recitative), and is based upon Greek mythology (as told by the Roman poet Ovid in his magnum opus Metamorphoses).

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the premiere of "Apollo" at Salzburg.

Listen below to the impressive aria for soprano “Lætari, iocari” (To rejoice, to make merry), followed by a recording the exquisite Coro e solo "Numen o Latonium," both of which are from Mozart's early opera:

Lætari, iocari

Numen o Latonium


[2]University of Salzburg.

[3]a royally significant tour at that: the wunderkind Mozart would, with sister Nannerl, perform before the likes of King George III of Britain and King Louis XV of France - an exciting period for the musical family that would include a request from Princess Carolina of Orange-Nassau to visit her in Holland.

[4]drama by Father Rufinus Widl, who served as Professor of Philosophy at the University.

[5]Leopold is believed to have ‘helped’ Mozart compose in his very early days – the depth or significance of the seniors’ aid, however, is a subject of much and continued debate. Scholars of this period continue to disagree over whether the presence of Leopold’s hand on surviving early manuscripts indicate minor edits or something more significant. In either circumstance, the anecdote of Mozart and the Prince-archbishop von Schrattenbach, if true, would seem to indicate a wholly independent faculty of the art of composition by a youthful Mozart. It should be noted that the vast majority of Herr Mozart's royal and aristocratic patrons did not share the skepticism once held by von Schrattenbach. Consider, for example, Prince Karl Wilhelm of Brunswick, who upon hearing the wunderkind during his visit to Holland, enthusistically exclaimed:"Many a kapellmeister dies without ever having learned anything like what this child knows!"

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