Franz Liszt spent nearly seven years on Sardanapalo, an Italian opera based on Lord Byron's tragedy of 1821. Working intermittently, he abandoned a continuous draft in 1852. The surviving music constitutes the entirety of Act 1 (minus its final cadence), a unique mixture of Italianate pastiche and mid-century harmonic innovation.

Between 2017-19 the opera was brought to modern ears by David Trippett at the University of Cambridge. The manuscript was assumed to be fragmentary and difficult to read, its music irretrievable. But after a reevaluation, and a period of intensive study, a critical edition for the Neue Liszt Ausgabe (EMB) and a performance edition for Schott were both published in 2019. Two sources of information were particularly significant: Liszt's own orchestral textures and instrumental cues for orchestrating the work; and working with performers to discover matters of tempi, articulation, and phrasing as part of practice-based research.

The world première took place in Weimar, under Kirill Karabits and the Staatskapelle Weimar on 19-20 August 2018 with singers Joyce El Khoury, Airam Hernández, and Oleksandr Pushniak.

View a documentary exploring the research process (with musical excerpts), and read the full research story to discover more.