Apollo and Hyacinthus, Britten Theatre, London

Opera? It's child's play for Wolfgang
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The Independent Culture

Written when the composer was just 11 years old, Apollo and Hyacinthus is Mozart's first opera. Like nine-year-old Daisy Ashford's novella The Young Visiters, it plays with the conventions of grown-up entertainment like a child raiding a dressing-up box for its parents' cast-offs. Yet amid the accidental comedy of instant love, sublimated rivalry, inclement weather and death by discus, Mozart's mature voice appears like the titular deus ex machina.

Annilese Miskimmon's touring production for Dublin's Opera Theatre Company and London's Classical Opera Company puts the young composer at the centre of his precocious creation. As Mozart, Calvin Wright dashes across the stage with cut-out lightning and balsa-wood sheep; almost stealing the show. But for the exhilarating phrasing of Ian Page's orchestra, and the stunning performances of Rebecca Bottone (Melia) and Marc Le Brocq (Oebalus), he would have got away with it. Martene Grimson (Hyacinthus), William Purefoy (Apollo), and James Laing (Zephyrus) give elegant support. But Bottone and Le Brocq's Act III father-daughter duet - the germ of Idomeno's deeper tragedy - is the undoubted musical highlight.

Apollo and Hyacinthus is at St George's, Bristol (0845 402 4001) on 18 March and the Buxton Festival (0845 127 2190) 13-20 July

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