ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
PERFORMER: Sophie Bevan, Allan Clayton, Jacques Imbrailo, Stuart Jackson, Darren Jeffery, Jonathan McGovern; Orchestra of Classical Opera/Ian Page
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 473
In 1779 Mozart began to compose a Singspiel (opera with spoken dialogue), presumably in the hope that it might be performed by a German-language company Emperor Joseph II had recently launched in Vienna. For some reason he laid it aside, and it wasn’t until 1866 that the piece – posthumously titled Zaide – was first staged; various attempts to complete the fragment have been subsequently made, though none, thus far, has proved convincing.
In their recording of Mozart’s existing music, conductor Ian Page and the Orchestra of Classical Opera add nothing except an overture, taken from the incidental music to the play Thamos, King of Egypt. It makes a highly dramatic introduction to a score that contains some real plums – notably the well-known aria for Zaide, ‘Ruhe sanft’, skilfully sung here by Sophie Bevan, who also shines in the rest of the role.
Like Die Entführung aus dem Serail (‘The Seraglio’, 1782), Zaide seems to have been about Christians enslaved by Muslims – a pertinent contemporary theme since the trade by Barbary pirates flourished well into the 19th century. Page’s performance offers firmness and mastery of tempo, though ironically the orchestral highlight, the Thamos Entr’acte, is an addition to the score.
As Gomatz, Allan Clayton brings energy and definition to his singing though is inclined to swallow lines in the melodrama (speech over music). Jacques Imbrailo is a rather tentative Allazim and Stuart Jackson a surprisingly mild-mannered Soliman, while Darren Jeffery offers considerable character as both Osmin and Zaram. Excellent sound.