Rescue operas were popular at the time, since Muslim pirates were preying on Mediterranean shipping, particularly to obtain female, and male slaves, for various purposes. This story represents a reversal, as Zaide goes to save her beloved, Gomatz. Ludwig van Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, is cast in the same mold, with spoken dramatic dialogue, although it is a husband (a political prisoner) who is saved from death in a Spanish prison.
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). Sadly, he would soon abandon 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. 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.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, January 27, 1866|
|Zaram, captain of the Guard||speaking role|
In honor of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, a controversial new production of Zaide directed by Peter Sellars debuted at the Wiener Festwochen in 2006, and was presented at the Mostly Mozart Festival at the Lincoln Center in New York, and the Barbican Centre in London. Sellars took the remaining fragments of Zaide and added excerpts from the composer's incidental music to the play Thamos, König in Ägypten, which, like Zaide, was written when Mozart was 23. Taking off from the opera's theme of slavery, he set it in a contemporary sweatshop and cast it entirely with African-American and Asian singers. The production featured the Concerto Köln under the direction of Louis Langrée, sets by George Tsypin, lighting by James F. Ingalls, and costumes by Gabriel Berry. A revival of the 2006 production, with the Camerata Salzburg in the pit, was presented at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2008.
|publisher = The Guardian}}