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Tuesday, March 7, 2017



Music: Listen to the First Glimpse of a Long-Lost Liszt Opera

Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt did not just write deliciously florid operatic piano transcriptions, but tried his hand at a couple of operas as well. 

A largely forgotten Italian opera that Liszt composed will, belatedly, get its premiere this summer.

You can listen to part of the work, based on Lord Byron’s Assyrian tragedy “Sardanapalus."

Listen to 'Sardanapalo'
Video An excerpt from Liszt's opera.

The Liszt opera — written largely in shorthand — languished in a Weimar archive for nearly 170 years. 

David Trippett, of Cambridge, who discovered it, has spent some time working on the manuscript. 

It is performed by the soprano Anush Hovhannisyan at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition this summer.

“It is music born of great ambition, and it sounds like that,” Trippett notes, saying that he heard in it elements from Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnets and glimmers of Wagner. 

"Peeling back the layers when I was deciphering the manuscript was slow work, but I was always sustained by being able to hear the sounds in my head and play through the emerging score at the piano.”

Scholars have generally referred to the opera as “Sardanapalus,” which is what Liszt called it in his French correspondence. 

But Trippett said that since it was an Italian opera, the work would almost certainly have been called “Sardanapalo” — so that is the title being used for a critical edition.

“It’s funny,” he wrote, “when I finally played the recording we made to my wife, she smiled and said, ‘O.K. — now I know you’re not so crazy for spending so much time on this!’”

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