chapter  5
Byzantium: A Night at the Opéra
ByDion C. Smythe
Pages 18

This chapter is not about Byzantine operas; none have survived. It is not about the influence of Byzantine musical theory and practice on the Western operatic tradition. Such a paper could be written, but not by me. Nor is this paper a trawl through the full operatic canon, identifying (for praise or damnation?) those composers who were more or less proficient at creating performances that encapsulated some Byzantine ‘historical truth’. Rather, ‘I have a little list’:4 Handel’s Tamerlano (1724), Donizetti’s Belisario (1836), Massenet’s Esclarmonde (1889), Siegfried Wagner’s Sonnenammen (1912; performed 1918) and Tavener’s St Mary of Egypt (1992); others – such as Abranyi’s Bisanc (1942: unperformed) or Sir Michael Tippett’s suppressed opera for children Robert of Sicily (1938)5 – could have been included; ‘I’m sure they will be missed.’