A young Mozart gives us a glimpse of masterpieces to come

>> Sunday, October 7, 2007

Zaide, K. 344, composed by Wolfgang Mozart in 1779-1780, was left unfinished. Emperor Joseph II, in 1778, was in the process of setting up an opera company for the purpose of performing German opera. In order to join the company, Mozart would have to submit for consideration, an opera in German, so in 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 preyed upon Mediterranean shipping, particularly to obtain slaves, both male and female, to be used for various purposes. In this particular story, 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 composed it 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, on 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.





Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben,
schlafe, bis dein Glück erwacht!
da, mein Bild will ich dir geben,
schau, wie freundlich es dir lacht:
Ihr süßen Träume, wiegt ihn ein,
und lasset seinem Wunsch am Ende
die wollustreichen Gegenstände
zu reifer Wirklichkeit gedeihn.

Rest peacefully, sweet love of my life,
Sleep 'till you re-awake in happiness!
Here, I give you a picture of me,
See how lovingly it smiles at you;
Oh, let those sweet dreams cradle him,
And finally let
All sensual things he desires
Come to rich fruition.

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