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Zaide

Mozart Royal Festival Hall, May 1952

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The singspiel that Mozart started to write at the age of 24 but never finished has gained highly contemporary resonance through the work of such modern stage directors as Peter Sellars, who have seen in its hoary harem plot a potentially and provocatively explosive encounter between East and West.

Such an encounter Mozart would go on to refine considerably in his singspiel Die Entf hrung aus dem Serail, composed after Mozart showed his workings on Zaide to the Viennese impresario Gottlob Stephanie. Meanwhile we are left with two acts full of music but lacking the linking recitatives or dialogue that would supply a narrative - and an Act 3 that would supply a resolution (and presumably a happy ending).
That would all be in the future: meanwhile, however, the imprisoned Zaide, the comically villainous Pasha and her noble Christian rescuer have plenty of fine music. Most notable perhaps is Zaide's long and demanding aria, 'Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben', a spiritual counterpart to the showpieces accorded to Constanze or Fiordiligi in later works. It comes over undimmed by the passage of time thanks to the communicative powers of Gré Brouwenstijn, who represents luxury casting for a work regarded at the time as slight and hardly more exalted over the course of the intervening half century and more. The efforts of Sellers, Blech, Brouwenstijn and others may hopefully change that.