Apollo et Hyacinthus

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Apollo et Hyacinthus is an opera, K. 38, written in 1767 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was 11 years old at the time. It is Mozart's first true opera (when one considers that Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots is simply a sacred drama). It is in three acts. As is suggested by the name, the opera is based upon Greek mythology as told by Roman poet Ovid in his masterwork Metamorphoses. Interpreting this work, Rufinus Widl wrote the libretto in Latin.

The opera was first performed on 13 May 1767 at the Great Hall, Salzburg University.[1] The myth follows that Hyacinth died accidentally from being struck on the head by a discus thrown by Apollo. However, another myth tells that it was the wind god Zephyrus who was actually responsible for Hyacinth's death because Zephyrus, out of jealousy, blew the discus off course in order to injure and kill Hyacinth. When he died, Apollo made the hyacinth flower spring out from his spilled blood.

The librettist and priest, Rufinus Widl, modified Ovid's story (in which Apollo, Zephyrus, and Hyacinthus clearly constituted a homosexual love triangle) to make it conform to the ethic, by changing the sexually desired character from Ovid's Hyacinth to Melia, his sister.

The opera was intended to be performed as an intermedium, played between the acts of a verse drama, Clementia Croesi, which likewise deals with the questions of guilt, revenge and forgiveness. Clementia Croesi is based on the Histories of Herodotus (1.34–45).


The Death of Hyacinth by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Role Voice type Premiere cast
13 May 1767
(Conductor: – )
Oebalus, King of Lacedaemonia tenor Mathias Stadler
Melia, daughter of Oebalus soprano Felix Fuchs
Hyacinthus, son of Oebalus soprano Christian Enzinger
Apollo alto Johann Ernst
Zephyrus, friend of Hyacinthus alto Joseph Vonterthon
First priest of Apollo bass Joseph Bründl
Second priest of Apollo bass Jakob Moser


King Oebalus of Lacedaemonia and his son, Hyacinthus are preparing a sacrifice to Apollo when their altar is struck by a bolt of lightning. Apollo himself arrives to offer his friendship to young Hyacinthus and love to his sister, Melia. Melia's euphoria over the prospect of marrying a deity is shattered, however, when Zephyrus runs in to report that Apollo had killed Hyacinthus with a discus. But just as Zephyrus is finishing his story, Apollo himself blows in and sends the liar off with a blast of the west wind. The distraught Melia doesn't know what to believe and shuns the god as she leaves to find her brother.

As it turns out, Hyacinthus manages to identify Zephyrus as his killer to his father as he expires. Oebalus and Melia sing a duet of grief that so touches Apollo that he turns the boy's body into the flower hyacinthus (with its signature marking), and reaffirms his love for Melia who praises the power of Numen.


  1. ^ "History of the opera". opera.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  • Thomas Lederer: "The clemency of Rufinus Widl: Text and context of W. A. Mozart's first opera." Humanistica Lovaniensia 58 (2009), 217–373. (Text of the drama and libretto of the opera with English translation)

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