Mozart: Zaide

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Zaide
PERFORMER: Diana Damrau, Michael Schade, Rudolf Schasching, Florian Boesch, Anton Scharinger; Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 84996 2
Zaide is a substantial Mozartian fragment. Mozart wrote his Singspiel to a text by Johann Andreas Schachtner on spec in 1779-80, hoping for a production to materialise. It didn’t, and instead he turned his attention to Die Entführung aus dem Serail, with its similar theme of Christian slaves escaping from a Turkish despot. The overture was presumably never written (Harnoncourt here substitutes the Symphony in E flat, K184), and the score may even lack an entire third act; the plot reaches an indefinite conclusion, made all the vaguer by the fact that all of Schachtner’s dialogue is missing.

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Here the German actor Tobias Moretti provides a linking text, making all sorts of connections between 18th-century and contemporary views of the Islamic world – some of them worrying.

The surviving score is well worth exploring, especially for its expressive use of melodrama – or speech text delivered over music – which Mozart here exploits to fine effect. Elsewhere, there are some marvellous arias and ensembles, even if the piece does not measure up to his greatest operas

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The cast is more than respectable, though coloratura Diana Damrau sounds thin in the title role and Michael Schade hard-pressed as Gomatz. Florian Boesch is a firm Allazim, and Anton Scharinger registers quite properly as a nasty piece of work as vindictive Osmin, while Rudolf Schasching’s Soliman is perhaps a little too forceful. So, often, is Harnoncourt’s charmless conducting, and period instrument playing that borders on the brash. George Hall