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Zaide (originally, Das Serail) is an unfinished German-language opera, K. 344, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1780. Emperor Joseph II, in 1778, was in the process of setting up an opera company for the purpose of performing German opera. One condition required of the composer to join this company was that he should write a comic opera. At Salzburg in 1779 Mozart began work on a new opera (now known as Zaide although Mozart did not give it such a title). It contains spoken dialogue, which also classifies it as a Singspiel (literally, "singing play"). Only the arias and ensembles from the first two acts were composed. Missing are an overture and third act.

It was popular at the time for operas to depict the rescue of enslaved Westerners from Muslim courts, since Muslim pirates were preying on Mediterranean shipping, particularly to obtain slaves for various purposes. This story portrays Zaide's effort to save her beloved, Gomatz.

Mozart was composing for a German libretto by Johann Andreas Schachtner, set in Turkey, which was the scene of his next, completed rescue Singspiel (Die Entführung aus dem Serail). He soon abandoned Zaide, to work on Idomeneo, and never returned to the project. The work was lost until after his death, when Constanze Mozart, his wife, found it in his scattered manuscripts in 1799. The fragments wouldn't be published until 1838, and its first performance was held in Frankfurt on January 27, 1866, the 110th anniversary of Mozart's birth. Zaide has since been said to be the foundations of a masterpiece, and received critical acclaim. The tender soprano air, "Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben" is the only number that might be called moderately familiar.

The title Zaide was supplied by the Mozart researcher Johann Anton André, who first published the score, including his own completion of it, in the 1830s.[1] André's father Johann André had set the same text to music, before Mozart commenced his singspiel.[2]

Modern companion pieces to Zaide have been written by both Luciano Berio and Chaya Czernowin.

In modern performances, Mozart's Symphony No. 32, K. 318, which was composed around the same time as Zaide and later used as an overture to Francesco Bianchi's La villanella rapita (1784), is often given as an overture to Zaide. Completions of the opera may use a pastiche of Mozart's concert arias or, more popularly, music from Thamos, King of Egypt, also from the same period of Mozart's career.


  • Style 1
  • Performance history 2
  • Roles 3
  • Synopsis 4
  • Noted arias 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Zaide can neither be described as opera buffa or opera seria; it contained elements of both forms, and parallels may be drawn to both genre in Mozart's work. Zaide is also notable as being one of only two dramatic pieces by Mozart to contain melodrama (the other being Thamos, King of Egypt). Most of the spoken dialogue to Zaide has been lost, though there have been various attempts in modern times to write new dialogue to substitute for Schachtner's lost words.

Performance history

In 1995, James F. Ingalls, and costumes by Gabriel Berry. A revival, with the Camerata Salzburg in the pit, was presented at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2008.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, January 27, 1866
(Conductor: –)
Zaide soprano Deiner
Gomatz tenor Georg Müller-Gormann
Allazim bass Carl Pichler
Sultan Soliman tenor Carl Baumann
Osmin bass
Zaram, captain of the Guard speaking role
Four slaves tenor


Zaide falls in love with Gomatz, a slave, which strikes up jealousy and rage in the Sultan, who happens to also admire her. After capture she chooses a free life with Gomatz rather than a good life with the Sultan. Allazim encourages the sultan to consider Gomatz as a man, not as a slave. The final surviving quartet suggests Zaide and Gomatz are sentenced to punishment or execution. This is where Mozart's manuscript breaks off.

There are similarities with Voltaire's play Zaïre (Zara) in which Zaïre, a Christian slave who had been captured as a baby falls in love with Osman, the Sultan of Jerusalem. Osman wrongly believes Zaïre and another Christian slave Nerestan (Gomatz in Mozart's opera) are lovers and kills Zaïre in a jealous rage and then kills himself. The elderly Lusignan, a prisoner of the Sultan (paralleled in the character Allazim) recognizes Zara and Nerestan as his children as she escorts him to safety. From the surviving arias we can deduce a few differences between Voltaire's play and Mozart's opera. By Act II of the opera Zaide, Gomatz, and possibly Allazim actually escape, only to be captured once more. In the opera there is no evidence that Mozart intended to cast Zaide, Gomatz and Allazim as a reunited family. Indeed, the original ending of Voltaire's play may have been too serious for contemporary tastes and may have been a reason for Mozart's leaving the project incomplete.

Noted arias

See also


  1. ^ San Francisco Symphony. Retrieved 2 November 2014
  2. ^ Luke Howard. "The Singspiel and Mozart". Retrieved 2 November 2014
  3. ^ Dermoncourt, Bertrand (30 June 2008). "Le ratage Zaïde, la réussite Siegfried". L'Express

External links

  • Zaide: Score and critical report (German) in the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe
  • Zaide: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  • Libretto
  • ZaideArticle on the background behind by Ian Page
  • ZaideArticles on
  • Evans, Rian (29 June 2004). – 3 stars Aldeburgh"Zaïde".  
  • Fragments of the libretto
  • "Zaide": Libretto
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