Liszt's Sardanapalo 

 

Liszt spent almost seven years on an Italiante opera, Sardanapalo, based on Lord Byron's tragedy of 1821. Working intermittently on the project, he abandoned a continuous particell 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 the N4 manuscript to concert premiere and CD release. The full research story is available in this article for the Journal of the Royal Musical Association

The manuscript (GSA 60/N4) contains no formal sections, but divides into: 

  • Preludio

  • Scena ed aria (soprano, concubine chorus)

  • 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.

CD reviews can be viewed here; scholarly reviews have appeared in Notes (2022) and Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle (2022). Here's a short article for BBC Music Magazine.

The next performance takes place on:

All project updates are available here.

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.