Zaide

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
A new completion by Ian Page of the unfinished singspiel with libretto by Michael Symmons Roberts (sung text), Ben Power and Melly Still (spoken text)
The Classical Opera Company Sadler's Wells
(2010)

Publicity image

If only Mozart had not received that commission for Idomeneo just when he did, we would most certainly have been spared various attempts by lesser mortals to complete his promising "singspiel" Zaide, a story of passion, imprisonment and tyranny which the composer abandoned so abruptly around 1779.

Setting aside the impossible question mark that throws up as to the fate of Idomeneo, we would surely have enjoyed another masterpiece, judging from the quality of the fifteen arias and ensembles that Mozart had already completed.

There have been various attempts to anticipate Mozart's intentions for Zaide, the first in Frankfurt in 1866 with more recent efforts in Brussels, Vienna and the Barbican.

The latest is an heroic attempt by Ian Page and Classical Opera with Melly Still, who has international fame including the National Theatre, directing.

Whether this production advances the reputations of either conductor or director is a moot point. The most honourable thing one can say is that this completion is, at least, entirely Mozart - yet is that alone really enough?

There is much consolation for us all in the singing of most of the principals, especially Amy Freston as Perseda and William Berger and Andre Goodwin as prisoners Allazim and Gomatz.

And there is an especially fine performance from South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza in the title role, lacking only a little more lightness of tone. Her opening aria "Lost in Sleep at last I touch you" however, is the highlight of the evening.

Setting of the prison by Anna Fleischle is so much more than suitably grim that I wondered if was anything to do with Mozart.

Yet for all the beauty of Idomeneo, I am left with a strengthening of my belief in the old maxim, "If you want a job doing properly, do it yourself!"

This production of "Zaide" can be seen at Sheffield Lyceum (29th June), Bath Theatre Royal (1st and 3rd July) and Buxton Festival (9th and 20th July).

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole