Mozart: Zaide

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Zaide
PERFORMER: Lynne Dawson, Hans Peter Blochwitz, Olaf Bär, Herbert Lippert; Academy of Ancient Music/Paul Goodwin
Mozart’s Zaide lacks overture and finale, maybe even its final act. The dialogue is missing; what remains is a pair of ensembles and a concert of magnificent arias, with fascinating anticipations of later operas (Die Entführung has a virtually identical plot, Europeans ensnared in a Turkish harem). Two speeches survive as melodramas, the words spoken between and (briefly) over expressive music. Mozart sang the praises of this form but hardly used it again; his music is stunning, but surely less effective than his later recitatives. Unfortunately when Herbert Lippert’s Sultan does so, even unauthorised top notes leave him sounding unsuitably friendly (the second aria is better). Hans Peter Blochwitz’s Gomatz is no more than pleasant, the character being undeveloped, the voice a little pinched. Olaf Bär’s Allazim is nobly drawn, a fine serious high baritone of a type unusual in Mozart, and a performance to treasure; but Lynne Dawson disappoints in the title role, her singing sounding stressed, with unexpected difficulties of intonation. The favourite aria ‘Ruhe sanft’ may be marked as a minuet, but should still be a lullaby; tenderness is strangely absent. Some marvellous instrumentation receives full justice from the period instruments, but does not quell the frustration induced by this strange operatic torso. Julian Rushton