Michael Dellaira The music of Michael Dellaira

The Leopard


The Leopard is a new opera by composer Michael Dellaira and poet/librettist J. D. McClatchy, their third together.   Commissioned by American Opera Projects, the opera is based on the internationally acclaimed 1958 novel Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. (The 1962 film by Lucchino Visconti, also based on the novel, is equally well-known.)

In 1860, during the Risorgimento, Garibaldi has invaded Sicily and is sweeping the country towards a unified Italy. “For things to remain the same everything must change” declares the young and idealistic Tancredi to his uncle, Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina. The Prince, known as The Leopard because of his commanding personality, is of the old school, and he now faces a society in upheaval, and is forced to choose between decay and progress, between the downfall of the nobility and the future of his family.

The opera will be in two acts, about two hours in length, including intermission. There are expected to be 4 principal roles (soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone) and 8 supporting roles (2 sopranos, mezzo, 2 tenors, baritone, 2 basses). The orchestra: winds, brass, harp, strings, percussion, and amplified 12-string guitar.

In June 2014, renowned stage director James Robinson, Artistic Director at Opera Theater St. Louis, joined the creative team.  He directed a staged reading of the libretto last fall and a recording session / workshop this spring.

The Leopard is made possible, in part, through generous funding by The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and The Paul Underwood Charitable Trust.

In March, 2016, the Manhattan School of Music presented 4 scenes in workshop as part of its “Page to Stage” series. Anne Shikany directed and Andrew Altenbach conducted, with music direction by Scott Rednour.

On September 30th, 3 excerpts were recorded at the Berklee College of Music’s Studio One. My thanks to American Opera Projects, who put this recording together, and to the Boston Conservatory (especially Johnathon Pape), and to Berklee’s sound and video engineers. This is one of their first collaborations since the two conservatories merged last year. Here’s a video of Andrew Altenbach conducting Angelica’s aria “I Am Angelica”. The other recordings, Don Fabrizio’s “Sleep” and the ensemble finale from Act 2, Scene 4 are below.


Lauren Cook, soprano, Andrew Altenbach, conductor


Act II, Scene 4 Finale (Ensemble)

Scene 5 
 The main salon. CONCETTA enters alone, and comes forward. As she sings, the PRINCESS and her ladies are seen upstage in silhouette.



I know it!
I am certain!
His shy looks, his sly smile
Can only mean one thing!
I don’t know what he sees in me,
But it must be more than I can see in myself.
He makes me feel like someone larger,
Someone better, someone prettier.
When he proposes, I will give him my heart.
My heart—his forever!
She steadies herself on the back of a chair. In the rear, still in silhouette, the PRINCESS receives ANGELICA, who is trailed by her father, DON CALOGERO. Don FABRIZIO enters from the other side, and ANGELICA curtsies before him. The two men start to confer, and ANGELICA turns her radiant face towards the audience and runs forward, light streaming from her beauty.


I’m Angelica

I’m Angelica . . .

[This, as she comes forward. Then she stops to looks around the room.]

Here I am at last.
Oh my, here I am at last.
And you must be Concetta!

I know all about you—
How you tease the priest,
Your favorite color, favorite flower,
The glamorous parties you’ve been to.
And I am going to like this house.
I am going to like this house very much.

I came through the garden,
So silvery and so lush.
And just look at that chandelier,
Each crystal a dusty teardrop,
Each candle patient for a flame,
Each echo ringing down the hall,
Each mirror with its tales to tell
Of who confessed to it, who cursed in it, who kissed it.

Oh, I am going to like this house very much.
Here I am at last.
Oh my, here I am at last!
Dear Concetta, I hope we will be friends.


Sleep, sleep is what Sicilians want.
They will always hate whoever tries to wake them,
Even in order to bring them gifts.
Our sensuality longs for oblivion.
Our violence longs for death.
Our languor longs for voluptuous immobility,
Which in the end is death itself.
From this comes our power.
The lag in our artistic life.
From this comes the myths we love
Because they plunge us back into a past
That attracts us only because it is dead.

You must excuse me, dear man.
I belong to an unlucky generation,
Swung between the old world and the new,
And ill at ease in both.
You need young men,
Bright young men
Who ask “how” rather than “why.”

I would suggest you ask Calogero Sedàra.
He has power.
He has no illusions, but is clever enough
To know how to create them when needed.
He’s the man for you.
Sleep, sleep is what Sicilians want.
Don Calogero is wide awake.
He’s the man for you.