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About this Piece

Composed: 1779-1780
Length: c. 6 minutes
Orchestration: oboe, bassoon, [keyboard??], strings, and solo soprano

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: August 3, 1990, with soprano Kathleen Battle, David Zinman conducting

Mozart was still in unhappy service in Salzburg when he began work on a new Singspiel, hoping to capitalize on current interest in a German opera genre. He had completed 15 numbers when he received a new commission for an opera seria for Munich, which became Idomeneo and interrupted his work on the Singspiel (which he had not titled). Then came his break with Salzburg and its archbishop, and when he needed a Singspiel for Vienna, he turned to a new libretto on a very similar subject, The Abduction from the Seraglio. His music for Zaide was not published until 1838 (with the title chosen by the publisher), and it was not staged (with additional music and text) until his birthday in 1866.

Zaide is the favorite in the sultan’s harem. In Act I she observes the exiled and enslaved Gomatz sleeping, and sings this sweet lullaby in the tempo and meter of a gracious minuet, lovingly scored with solo oboe and bassoon, muted violins, and pizzicato divided violas. There is a vividly contrasting, quietly agitated middle section, but she returns to the main theme of the lullaby, intensified by fresh coloratura, as she leaves her portrait with the sleeping man.

— John Henken