Apollo und Hyacinthus

In September 2011, two months after I arrived in Munich, I met my new voice teacher, Mrs. Rita Loving.  Apart from being a wonderful teacher, an extremely knowledgeable opera coach, and a totally lovely lady, she is a very supportive advisor who gave me the opportunity to find my first job as a professional opera singer here, in Germany.

As a native of Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada, I truly believe it was my Schicksal (destiny) to sing in Mozart’s very first opera entitled Apollo und… Hyacinthus!!!

I had only three weeks to learn the female leading role of Melia, which is composed of 8 long recitatives, a beautiful aria in the baroque style ABA’, 2 duets and a final trio.  Bon, trois semaines, ce n’est pas si terrible que ça, mais quand le rôle est en latin, c’est une autre histoire!  Omnes perditi jamjam sumus!  Une chance que j’avais retenu quelques notions de mon cours de latin au Collège Saint-Maurice avec Soeur Thérèse Ostiguy!  Rosa, rosa, rosaaaaaam!  Chère Thérèse, chaque fois que j’utilise l’expression agere contra, je pense à vous!

I thought that my first working experience in German would be difficult and laborious, but I realized that I understood much better than I had expected, and the rehearsal process went really well.  It has been a great pleasure and a privilege for me to be able to work with the Freies Opernensemble München!

Apollo et Hyacinthus was written in 1767 by a very young Mozart, who was 11 years old at the time.  This three-act opera composed in Latin is based upon Greek mythology, as told by Roman poet Ovid in his masterwork Metamorphoses.

The opera was first performed on 13 May 1767 at the Great Hall, Salzburg University, Austria.  The myth follows that Hyacinthus (a hero beloved of Apollo, god of light, poetry and music) died accidentally from being struck on the head by a discus thrown by Apollo.  However, another myth tells that it was Zephyrus, the jealous god of the west wind, who was actually responsible for Hyacinthus’ death as he blew the discus off course in order to injure and kill the young man.  A flower, the hyacinth, sprang from the youth’s blood at Apollo’s behest.

The librettist Prof. Rufinus Widl (1731-98), a Benedictine monk, modified Ovid’s story (in which Apollo, Zephyrus, and Hyacinthus clearly constituted a homosexual love triangle) to make it conform to the social standards of his own time, by changing the sexually desired character from Ovid’s Hyacinthus to Melia, his sister.

The vocal and instrumental design of the work, the recitatives and the dramatic conception indicate that Mozart, even in his first opera, displayed an amazing grasp of the art of composition.  The ten musical numbers strike the listener not only by their unusual level of inspiration but also by many personal traits which herald the advent of a musical genius.

The first performance at the University of Salzburg, given by soloists between 12 and 23 years old who must have been very well gifted vocally considering Mozart’s musical demands, ”delighted” the audience and was ”loudly applauded”, as the principal of the grammar school reported, adding that Mozart’s music ”pleased everyone”.  The report also noted that after the performance Mozart ”offered unheard-demonstrations of his pianistic skills well into the night.”  Wolfie has always been a bit ”show-off ”!

The work was published as part of the first Mozart Edition in 1879, but revivals were not undertaken before 1922.  It was repeatedly translated into German and made available in a scholarly edition in 1959 as part of the Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke Mozarts prepared by Bärenreiter-Verlag in Kassel and Deutscher Verlag für Musik Leipzig.

With the Freies Opernensemble München, we performed most of the cadenzas and ornaments suggested in the Bärenreiter Edition.  As I loooove singing early music, I had a lot of fun ornamenting my beautiful aria Laetari, iocari (Rejoice, Take Pleasure)!  Please feel free to listen to a (very!) homemade recording of that aria which I performed on November 16th, 2011, during the first dress rehearsal with orchestra and staging:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYMCvmub7vU&feature=g-all-fbc&context=G2729153FAAAAAAAAIAA

Apollo und Hyacinthus was revived at the Salzburg Summer Festival 2006.  Je vous invite à écouter le touchant duo unissant Mélia et son père Oebalus, le roi de Laconia.  Ce dernier se désole d’avoir chassé Apollo de son royaume, car il vient d’apprendre que ce n’est pas le dieu qui a tué son fils Hyacinthus, mais Zephyrus.  De son côté, Mélia pleure la mort de son frère et en veut à son père d’avoir ruiné toutes ses chances de faire un mariage heureux.     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pMaweh7TIQ

À mon avis, dans cette interprétation, le tempo est un peu trop lent pour que les chanteurs puissent exprimer à son apogée toute la beauté de la ligne musicale composée par le jeune Mozart.  Néanmoins, la mise en scène, les costumes, l’orchestre et les chanteurs sont splendides!  J’aurais bien aimé arborer une telle perruque en novembre dernier!

Chanter du Mozart en latin en Allemagne dans un opéra portant en partie le nom de ma ville natale: CHECK!

A mari usque ad mare.

(Littéralement: «Depuis la mer jusqu’à la mer.»)  Vous devriez la connaître, cette locution latine-là…  Non?

Et si je vous dis: «D’un océan à l’autre.»

Ah!  Voilà!

Ô Canadaaaaa!!!

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