The Leopard

The recording above and the three excerpts below are from the world premiere which took place March 5-6, 2022 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, Cutler Bay, Florida by the University of Miami’s Frost Opera Theater, Frost School of Music (Shelton Berg, Dean)

The Leopard was commissioned and developed by American Opera Projects, with funds provided by The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and The Paul Underwood Charitable Trust.
Adapted from “The Leopard” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Courtesy of The Wylie Agency.
CONDUCTOR – Gerard Schwarz
STAGE DIRECTOR – Jeffrey Buchman
SET DESIGNER – Cameron Anderson
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER – Nicole Plummer, Beatriz Menendez
ASSISTANTS TO THE DIRECTOR – Christina Smiley, Lauren Richards
CHORUS MASTER – Scott Aucoin
AUDIO RECORDING – Soundmirror, Inc.; Blanton Alspaugh, Producer; Mark Donahue, Balance Engineer; Brandon Johnson, Wireless Engineer
VIDEOGRAPHER – Gonzalo Mejia
Costumes provided by – Florida Opera Association, Inc.
Scenic Build by Infinity Productions
Props provided by Movie Props Rental

Production made possible by the generous support of Frayda B. Lindemann, Phillip and Patricia Frost, Alan Benaroya, and the Martin Messinger Symphony Orchestra Fund
Music Copyright 2018 Michael Dellaira
Published by American Composers Alliance (BMI) and Music of Virtual North America and for the Rest of the World by BMG Rights Mgt.
Score and parts:

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]

Dellaira and McClatchy’s … adaptation highlights and celebrates many of the qualities which make opera such a unique and captivating way of sharing stories. Opera Wire

This scene begins with Concetta, one of the Prince’s daughters, in a private moment, happy and confident that Tancredi, the Prince’s ward, will soon be proposing to her. Little does she know that her family’s fortunes are dwindling, and that Calogero, the new mayor and a wealthy opportunist, will soon be arriving for a visit, accompanied by his daughter, Angelica. Threatened by Angelica’s beauty, Concetta is nonetheless sure that Tancredi will be repulsed by Angelica’s vulgarity. The Prince, however, is aware of Calogero’s aspirations to nobility, and views Angelica and her wealth as an opportunity for Tancredi.
CONCETTA – Margarita Parsamyan
PRINCESS STELLA – Robynne Redmon
DON FABRIZIO (the Prince) – Kim Josephson
DON CALOGERO – Thandolwethu Mamba
The year is 1861 and Italy is now a unified country. The new government’s representative Chevalley di Monterzuolo has come to Sicily to offer the Prince a lifetime seat in the Senate. The Prince turns him down, and in this aria explains why. Sleep is what Sicilians want, and they will hate anyone who tries to wake them. And he is too old anyway, from a generation “caught between the old world and the new, and ill-at-ease in both.” The Prince suggests that Chevalley ask the younger, ambitious Calogero Sedara instead, a man who has no illusions but “knows how to create them when needed.”
DON FABRIZIO (the Prince) – Kim Josephson



Epilogue. The year is 1910. Angelica, now in her 70’s, comes to visit Concetta and her sisters, Carolina and Caterina. Tancredi has since passed away. With what cheer she can summon, Angelica recalls the day she and Concetta first met at Donnafugata and has just recounted what she thinks is an amusing story about her first encounter with the Prince. The story shocks Concetta. Her father, the Prince, the Leopard, in order to preserve his good name and estate, willfully deprived her of what she most desired: Tancredi. Here, in the opera’s finale, she realizes she has been left with nothing, not even her father’s loyalty.
CONCETTA – Margarita Parsamyan
CATERINA – Abby Guido
CAROLINA – Mia Flora
ANGELICA – Yaqi Yang

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.)   The Manhattan School of Music presented a workshop in 2016, directed by Anne Shikany, with Scott Rednour as music director and conducted by Andrew Altenbach.   The following year Mr. Altenbach conducted the Boston Conservatory orchestra in a recording of three excerpts at the Berklee School’s Shames Recording Studio. 

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.

The Leopard was Lampedusa’s only novel.  He wrote it late in his life, but it was not published in his lifetime.   Apparently Lampedusa’s beautifully wrought sentences were closer in spirit and style to the nineteenth century of Henry James than to the modern one of Samuel Beckett.  And a story of a decaying aristocracy seemed out of step with 1950s politics.

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change,” the young revolutionary Tancredi tells his uncle, the Prince of Salina (The Leopard).  This seeming paradox characterizes both the style and the theme of the book.  It represents the revolutionary’s desire to effect change as quickly as possible and “sweep away the past”, as Tancredi says, as well as the reactionary’s conviction that change, while inevitable, ultimately bends backward.

While reading The Leopard  I often heard music in my head.  Whether or not Lampedusa ever imagined his novel as an opera,  I  soon determined that it should become one.  And I was equally determined to make its music embody the tension between things changing and things staying just as they are, between sounding excitingly fresh and full of surprises, but at the same time celebrating the conventions, the conceits, and even the cliches that have made opera thrive for the past four-hundred years.

McClatchy and Dellaira after a presentation at the Colony Club, October 2016.
with Lampedusa heir Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi and his wife, Nicoletta Polo, the Duke and Duchess of Palma, December, 2018