The Leopard


The Leopard  was my third opera collaboration with poet and librettist J. D. McClatchy.   I completed the score in February, 2018, just two months before McClatchy’s death.   Commissioned by American Opera Projects, the work 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 at least as equally well-known.)

The story: 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 is in two acts, a little over two hours in length, including intermission. There are 4 principal roles (2 sopranos, tenor, baritone) and 8 supporting roles (2 sopranos, mezzo, 2 tenors, baritone, 2 basses). The orchestra: fl/picc; ob/; 2 cl/; bn; 2 hn; tp; tb; perc; hp; 12-string gtr; strings.

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

McClatchy and Dellaira after a presentation at the Colony Club, October 2016.

In March, 2016, the Manhattan School of Music, in collaboration with American Opera Projects, 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.

l-r: Martin Case,Anna Dugan, Brittany Bellacosa, Hidenori Inoue, Tim Sirinunthikal, Michael Gracco, Oliver Sewell, Blake Friedman, Janet Todd, Phlippe L’Esperance, Kayla Fuentes.  

Photo credit: Matthew Gray,American Opera Projects (photo used on this site’s main page.)

On September 30th, 3 excerpts were recorded at the Berklee College of Music’s Studio One. Our thanks 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”.  Other recordings 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.