The Leopard

The score is neat, transparent, and light on its feet. Though plenty sophisticated, it dares to be simple. [ National Review ]

Superbly crafted … Dellaira’s score is dotted with exquisite moments … [Opera Magazine]

Dellaira has achieved an incredible success with a rare contemporary work that deserves more productions  [The European Conservative]

Throughout the scenes of gaiety and tragedy, Dellaira’s orchestral writing sparkles in multihued expressive colors. [South Florida Classical Review]


The Leopard  had its world premiere on March 5, 2022 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay, Florida, by the Frost Opera Theater, directed by Jeffrey Buchman, with music direction by Alan Johnson, and with Gerard Schwarz conducting.  The production featured Kim Josephson as Prince Don Fabrizio, Robynne Redmon as Princess Stella, Frank Ragsdale as Father Pirrone, and Kevin Short as Cavaliere Chevalley di Monterzuolo.

Act 1, Scene 2, Don Fabrizio: “I have a surprise for all of you” (This and the following 5 photos by Mitchell Zachs)
Act 1 Scene 3: “Viva il Gattopardo!”
Act 1, Scene 5: “I am Angelica”
Act 1, Scene 6, Father Pirrone and Don Fabrizio: “And take my advice Father. Have a bath yourself once in a while.”
Act 2, Scene 6, The Ponteleone Ball: “Why all alone, Prince?”
Epilogue, Concetta: “Nothing ever changes”

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, with funds provided by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and the Paul Underwood Charitable Trust, 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.) I was granted rights by the Lampedusa Estate in 2014.

with Lampedusa heir Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi and his wife, Nicoletta Polo, the Duke and Duchess of Palma, December, 2018

Lampedusa’s protagonist is Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, and known as “The Leopard” for his commanding personality. A member of an impoverished aristocracy, soon to be obsolete, the Prince reluctantly adjusts to the modern world to guarantee his family’s future – and in doing so, sacrifices the happiness of one of them.

 “This is one of the great lonely books” E.M. Forster said of The Leopard.  The novel’s world-weary sentiments are perhaps best understood by those of us who have lived through several periods of change, and who have come to understand that the fundamental questions in life are no different today than they were a thousand years ago.   The Prince slowly, and reluctantly, comes to believe one of the novel’s main themes: “if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”


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.)

In the fall of 2016, excerpts were recorded by the Boston Conservatory orchestra at the Berklee College of Music’s Studio One.   

Lauren Cook, soprano, Andrew Altenbach, conductor

Here’s a recording of the same aria sung by Nicole Haslett, and accompanied on piano by Jennifer Peterson:

I am Angelica(Nicole Haslett, soprano; Jennifer Peterson, piano)

I am Angelica
I am 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.

In Act 2,  Don Fabrizio (the “Leopard”) turns down an offer to represent Sicily in the new republic of Italy, and gives his reasons in the aria “Sleep.”

Here are two recordings: the first with the Boston Conservatory Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Altenbach, and with baritone Michael Miller; the second by baritone Theo Hoffman accompanied on piano by Jennifer Peterson:

SLEEP from The Leopard

Sleep(The Boston Conservatory Orchestra; Andrew Altenbach, conductor; Michael Miller, baritone)

Sleep(Theo Hoffman, baritone; Jennifer Peterson, piano)


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.

And here’s the ensemble finale from Act 2, Scene 4, again with the Boston Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Andrew Altenbach, and singers Tascha Anderson, Quinn Bernegger, Meghan Callahan, Lauren Cook, Abigail Dock, Sean Galligan,  Cory Gross, Wes Hunter, Blake Jennings and Michael Miller.