Mozart: Zaide

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
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.


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


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