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For all that it carries the subtitle Das Serail and includes a character called Osmin, Mozart’s unfinished opera known as Zaide bears little resemblance to his other Oriental Singspiel, Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Probably commenced late in 1779 it inhabits a more serious world (only the slave trader Osmin has a comic aria) involving the compassion and love of the harem girl Zaide for Gomatz, the European captive of the Sultan Soliman. Musically, too, Zaide inhabits a very different world to the later work, much of the music being closer in spirit to the richly conceived incidental music for Thamos, König in Ägytien, from which Ian Page has borrowed one of the Interludes to serve as an overture.

Page’s recording is a continuation of the ambitious project to record all Mozart’s operas with his Classical Opera forces. Unsurprisingly it demonstrates the many virtues already established, not least in the superbly accomplished and detailed orchestral playing Page draws from his orchestra, while his direction is particularly distinguished by an innate understanding of the alternating build and release of tension inherent in Mozart’s music.

His young cast is a good one, led by the elegant and cultivated Gomatz of tenor Allan Clayton and the rich baritone of Jacques Imbrailo as a noble Allazim, the Sultan’s humane guardian. If Sophie Bevan’s Zaide fails to dislodge memories of Lynne Dawson’s sweetly sensitive performance for Paul Goodwin (harmonia mundi), it is still pleasing, though her enunciation is poor. In sum this is a fine addition to a valuable series.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing