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Lost Salieri Ballet to Receive First Performance in Over 200 Years

By Michael Vincent on November 27, 2023

After more than 200 years, music by Italian composer Antonio Salieri, once thought lost, has been rediscovered. PhD student Ellen Stokes from the University of Huddersfield made the find in an Austrian library, tucked within the pages of four manuscripts.

Find of a lifetime

The work is a ballet composed for Salieri’s opera “Europa Riconosciuta”. Stokes’ discovery came after meticulous research at the Austria National Library in Vienna, where she managed to piece together the scattered fragments of Salieri’s first international operatic success.

What makes it special?

It’s a rare occurrence for a composer to have written both the opera and the accompanying ballet in the 18th century, and this particular ballet had been missing in its complete form for centuries.

The upcoming performance by the Lincoln Pro Musica Orchestra is not just a concert; it’s a revival of a piece of music history unheard in its intended form in modern times.

Stokes, demonstrating exceptional dedication to her craft, navigated through archives and decoded watermarks to reconstruct the ballet. Dr. Steven Jan, Stokes’ PhD supervisor, commended her research skills, highlighting the importance of musicology in uncovering and understanding historical evidence.

Mozart rivalry

Salieri, recognized as one of Europe’s most renowned composers at the time of his death, gained notoriety amid rumours involving the mysterious death of his contemporary, Mozart — a story that gained widespread attention with the play and film “Amadeus.”

The performance of “Pafio e Mirra” promises to be a significant event, offering a rare glimpse into an 18th-century musical world.

It’s scheduled to take place at 15:30 GMT at the Central Methodist Church in Lincoln.

Zoom out

Here are a few other historic finds:

  • 2006: Vincenzo Bellini’s lost opera “Adelson e Salvini” found in a private Spanish collection. Originally written during Bellini’s student years, this was his first opera, previously known only through fragments.
  • 2012: Johann Baptist Vanhal’s long-lost symphony uncovered by a German librarian in a Berlin library. Vanhal, a contemporary of Mozart and Haydn, saw this work presumed destroyed in World War II; its discovery deepened our understanding of the classical era.
  • 2018: The complete score of “Le Roi et le fermier” by Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny located in a French attic. Monsigny, a prominent composer of 18th-century French opera comique, had this work rediscovered, further enriching the classical music heritage.

Michael Vincent
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