Finding Liszt: bringing a forgotten opera to life

Liszt’s lost opera heard for the first time in 170 years

David Trippett’s discovery that the manuscript of a mature opera by Franz Liszt – previously thought to be fragmentary and illegible – could be reconstructed led to the world premiere of a 19th-century work. It has also resulted in a critical reappraisal of a composer not previously known for opera.

Trippett’s critical reconstruction brought the unfinished opera, Sardanapalo, to life through international performances, radio broadcasts, published editions, a CD recording, public talks, lecture recitals and online films. It has also generated huge worldwide media attention, reaching approximately 789 million individuals through print, online, TV, radio and podcasts. 

In 2018, the reconstructed opera was premiered in Weimar (Germany), where Liszt had lived for 12 years, having a significant impact on the city’s sense of identity and cultural heritage. As well as raising the profile of the Staatskapelle Weimar, the work has also boosted the region’s tourism industry. Performances have also taken place in Lerici (Italy), Novi Sad (Serbia) and Washington DC (USA).

“It is not too big a statement to say that the work’s emergence changes musical history.”

– The Times