Liszt's Sardanapalo 


Liszt spent nearly seven years on an Italiante opera, Sardanapalo, based on Lord Byron's tragedy of 1821. Working intermittently on the project, he abandoned a continuous draft in 1852. 

The surviving music (55 minutes) constitutes the entirety of Act 1 (minus its final cadence). It is given in various degrees of full and shorthand notation. The style is a unique mixture of Italianate pastiche and mid-century harmonic innovation.

Listen to the world premiere recording, and explore the stages of research from silent manuscript to premiere and CD release. More detailed historical research is available in this article for the Journal of the Royal Musical Association

The manuscript (GSA 60/N4) contains: 

  • Preludio

  • Scena ed aria (soprano)

  • Scena e duetto (soprano and tenor)

  • a grand Terzetto finale (soprano, tenor and bass-baritone)

The critical edition was published as part of the Neue Liszt Ausgabe in November 2019, and the performing edition for Schott, an orchestration of Liszt's score that draws on the instrumental cues he specified in the manuscript, appeared in Summer 2019.

The next performances take place on:

All project updates are available here.

Here's a short article for BBC Music Magazine.

Dramatis personae


Sardanapalo, king of Assyria                          -   tenor

Mirra, Ionian slave, favourite of the king       -   soprano

Beleso, Chaldian priest and elder statesman  -   Bass-baritone

Chorus of Concubines                                  -  soprano & alto

Eugène Delacroix, The Death of Sardanapalus 

(Musée de Louvre, 1827)

Click for a couple of German radio interviews:

00:00 / 07:09
00:00 / 05:36

And here's an interview in English from 2019.