Franz Liszt spent nearly seven years on Sardanapalo, an Italian opera based on Lord Byron's tragedy of 1821. Working intermittently, he abandoned an incomplete draft in 1851. The surviving music constitutes almost the entirety of Act 1, a unique mixture of Italianate pastiche and mid-century harmonic innovation.

Now the opera is being brought to modern ears by David Trippett at the University of Cambridge. The manuscript was assumed to be 'extremely fragmentary' (Searle) and difficult to read, its music irretrievable. But after a reevaluation, and a period of intensive study, a critical edition with EMB (Neue Liszt Ausgabe) and a performance edition with Schott will both be published in 2019. Two sources of information were particularly significant: Liszt's own 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

The Italian première took place in Lerici, under Giuseppe Bruno at the Festival Suoni dal Golfo on 27 August 2018, with singers Anush HovhannisyanSamuel Sakker and Vazgen Ghazaryen.

A documentary exploring the research process, and containing musical excerpts, is available here.