World première reviews

a brilliant musical achievement” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Christiane Wiesenfeldt)

absolutely fascinating ... An eminent discovery. What a pity Liszt didn't continue along this path." (Die Welt, Manuel Brug)

"Sardanapalo is no for-the-hell-of-it resurrection, but a unique, high-octane fusion of Italian opera with Wagner’s through-composed vision" (The Arts DeskDavid Nice)

It is immensely colourful and melodic, original music with appealing lyrical moments, but also powerful and effective dramatic passages. Sardanapalo is an extremely interesting discovery.” (Neue Musikzeitung, Regine Müller)

"An entirely convincing drama, packed with incident and bursting with thrilling vocal and orchestral colour – think Bellini reimagined by Wagner and you have some idea of the vast emotional sweep of this gripping music." (Bachtrack, Stephen Pritchard)

"There were audible gasps heard within the auditorium as the work ended with a very visceral bang ... a thrilling piece of music, alive, vibrant, and new—and only 170 years old." (Opera Canada, Catherine Kustanczy)

"Startling lyric beauty ... The influence of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin seem obvious, but perhaps even more exciting is the composer’s (and Trippett’s) ability to mould shifting, sometimes scarily chromatic harmony to more traditional bel canto arias of supreme sophistication" (Bachtrack, Stephen Pritchard)

"We can recognize in Sardanapalo a kind of missing link in music history, a transition from bel canto to a more dramatic style. ... There's no trace of nonsensical arioso; everything is pure, intense feeling." (Thüringer Allgemeine ZeitungWolfgang Hirsch)

 

CD reviews

immensely important … the act is beautifully shaped, while Liszt’s fluid treatment of bel canto structures reveals an assured musical dramatist at work. Trippett has carefully modelled his orchestration on Liszt’s works on the 1850s, and it sounds unquestionably authentic. A fine work by one of the most inventive of composers. (Gramophone, Editor’s Choice, Tim Ashley)

“A torridly exciting recording … It is not too big a statement to say that the work’s emergence changes music history — changes it, too, in ways viscerally audible in every vocal roulade or each volcanic eruption by Liszt’s orchestra … Finding a work so determined to echo and at the same time reform Italian opera traditions puts a new perspective on Liszt’s thinking, and presents a vision of a road ahead that the composer ultimately did not take. … When El-Khoury’s volatile soprano shoots skywards, wildly dramatic, you wonder what heights were left to breach in the unwritten acts. … A most special and historic release.” (The Times, Geoff Brown)

A lost opera of glittering scope … The opening music moves from something like Mendelssohnian fairy music to a worldly little waltz that wouldn’t sound out of place in La Traviata; and yet some of Liszt’s glittering textures seem to look half a century ahead to Richard Strauss. Then, around every corner, there is Wagner, and there’s a Wagnerian slant to the harmony as well as a corresponding grandeur of scope.” (The Guardian, Erica Jeal)

“These fifty minutes are a musical intoxication. Liszt combines brilliantly crafted melodies with orchestral colors prognostic of his symphonic poems. So: fifty minutes of frenetic 'Tannhäuser' ecstasy rising to bel canto delights! ... An exceptional operatic feast” (Concerti, Album of the Week, Roland Dippel)

“The score is a fascinatingmelange of Italianate and Germanic elements, with long stretches of bel canto melody punctuated by darker, proto-Wagnerian outbursts. … [T]he act ends on a superb orchestral cliff-hanger as Sardanapalo’s troops march off to death or glory. It’s undeniably thrilling stuff, and by this stage I found myself so caught up in the drama that I was itching to crack on with the next [two] acts … until I remembered that they’d never materialised.” (Presto Classical, Disc of the Week, Katherine Cooper)

David Trippett’s orchestration … brings this fragment back to life, and it is rip-roaring stuff, characteristic of the dramatic orchestral narratives of the composer’s neglected tone poems. Karabits conducts his Weimar forces with flair, and the voicesmake a fine case for this rediscovery. (The Sunday Times, Album of the Week, Hugh Canning)

Sardanapalo has now blazed into life in a new edition … The torso of Liszt’s opera may only last around 50 minutes, but it packs in such a richness of gratification that it is hard to see where the opera would have gone from there ... The music rolls together vocal writing like Bellini, rousing choruses similar to early Wagner, wild orchestral sounds out of Berlioz, and even a pre-echo of Massenet … This first-ever recording offers a fascinating glimpse of what might have been. (Financial Times, Richard Fairman)

With [Sardanapalo], one is at the heart of Byronic romanticism and immersed in the sound world of Franz Liszt … [it] emphasizes how Liszt was always an inspired musician, that is to say a brilliant artist of extraordinary creative spirit. A very interesting discovery. (Crescendo, Jean-Baptiste Baronian)

Any fears that Liszt might not have been at home in the genre are dissipated, for the work, reconstructed by musicologist David Trippett, is lush and Romantic to a fault, with long-spun melodies, an innate sense of dramatic thrust and some thrilling choral work. Much fun can be had trying to discern musical influences, and it is obvious that Liszt had one foot in the bel canto tradition and another in a more forward-looking German school; but he does forge his own voice, and it is a shame that we only have Act I. (Opera Now, Choice of the Month)

Since an extract from Sardanapalo aired on BBC Radio 4 in 2017, the project has received significant coverage in the media: