top of page

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


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 The fragments would not be published until 1838, and its first performance was held in Frankfurt on January 27, 1866, the 110th anniversary of Mozart's birth.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.


KV 344 (336b) - Zaïde

- Lied I,1 (Sklave) Brüder, lasst uns lustig sein (0:00)
- Aria I,3 (Zaïde) Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben (1:00)
- Aria I,3 (Gomatz) Rase, Schicksal, wüte immer (6:44)
- Duo I,3 (Zaïde, Gomatz) Meine Seele hüpft vor Freuden (10:45)
- Aria I,4 (Gomatz) Herr und Freund! (12:55)
- Aria I,5 (Allazim) Nur mutig, mein Herze (16:42)
- Trio I,6 (Zaïde, Gomatz, Allazim) O selige Wonne! (20:38)
- Aria II,2 (Soliman) Der stolze Löw' (26:54)
- Aria II,3 (Osmin) Wer hungrig bei der Tafel sitzt (31:58)
- Aria II,4 (Soliman) Ich bin so bös' als gut (35:05)
- Aria II,5 (Zaïde) Trostlos schluchzet Philomele (40:45)
- Aria II,6 (Zaïde) Tiger! wetze nur die Klauen (47:27)
- Aria II,7 (Allazim) Ihr Mächtigen seht ungerührt (52:10)
- Quartet II,8 (Gomatz, Allazim, Soliman, Zaïde) Freundin! stille deine Tränen (56:32)


Sultan Soliman
captain of the Guard 
Four slaves

Tanz im Harem - Giulio Rosati


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.

bottom of page