Zaide is an unfinished 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 he began work on a new "rescue" opera, Zaide. It contains spoken dialogue, which also classifies it as a Singspiel (literally, "singing play").

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.

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


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 the only dramatic piece by Mozart to contain melodrama. This includes spoken dialogue which has been lost, though there have been various attempts in modern times to write new dialog to substitute for Schachtner's lost words.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, January 27, 1866
Zaide soprano
Gomatz tenor
Allazim bass
Sultan Soliman tenor
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. A twist on the end of the opera reveals Zaide and Gomatz to be brother and sister and Allazim to be their father. This ending is not always used, and is usually just narration depicting what may have happened if Mozart had actually finished the opera.

Noted arias

  • "Herr und Freund, wie dank ich dir!" — Gomatz in Act I
  • "Nur mutig, mein Herze" — Allazim in Act I
  • "Rase, Schicksal" — Gomatz in Act I
  • "Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben" — Zaide in Act I
  • "Der stolze Löw' lässt sich zwar zähmen" — Sultan Soliman in Act II
  • "Ich bin so bös als gut" — Sultan Soliman in Act II
  • "Ihr Mächtigen seht ungerührt" — Allazim in Act II
  • "Tiger! Wetze nur die Klauen" — Zaide in Act II
  • "Trostlos schluchzet Philomele" — Zaide in Act II
  • "Wer hungrig bei der Tafel sitzt" — Osmin in Act II


In 1995, le Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels presented Zaide in a production helmed by modern choreographer Lucinda Childs in her directing debut.

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.

See also

External links

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