Librettist and poet J.D. McClatchy dies at 72

April 12, 2018

Librettist and poet J. D. McClatchy

AOP mourns the passing of poet and librettist J. D. McClatchy, known to his friends as ‘Sandy,’ who died on Tuesday in his Manhattan apartment after battling cancer. One of McClatchy’s final librettos was an adaptation of internationally acclaimed 1958 novel Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa into The Leopard, an opera currently in development at AOP with music by Michael Dellaira. It was Dellaira’s third collaboration with McClatchy following The Secret Agent (2011) and The Death of Webern (2013).

“It was a privilege and a pleasure to have worked with Sandy for the past twelve years, during which time we wrote three operas together,” Dellaira told AOP. “We had just finished putting the finishing touches on our last, The Leopard, which Sandy called his “crowning achievement.” Sandy McClatchy was a man of words, always the right words, not just for his brilliant libretti, poems, and translations, but ready, and I mean instantly ready, to encourage – or console – his many friends.  I’m lucky to have been one of them.”

J. D. McClatchy on libretto writing: “Poetry was a good preparation, because it is as much an art of leaving things out as of putting things in. That search for the perfect word or the balanced line comes in handy when you are working in a form that demands a great deal of concision, and where you have to turn over the emotional argument to the music.”

McClatchy was well known and respected in the opera community for his librettos for Our Town, composed by Ned Rorem and based on Thornton Wilder’s play, Miss Lonelyhearts, composed by Lowell Liebermann and based on the Nathanael West novel; Orpheus Descending, by Bruce Saylor, based on Tennessee Williams’s play; and Dolores Claiborne, by Tobias Picker, based on the Stephen King novel.

J. D. McClatchy speaks to the standing room only audience about his career and the writing of The Leopard. Poets House – November 8, 2014.

In 2014, audiences packed the event space at Poetry House in Manhattan to hear McClatchy speak about his craft. The AOP produced event was to be followed by the first public libretto reading of The Leopard, but had to be cancelled after an upstairs bathroom flooded and began seeping down into the room as McClatchy spoke. As the slow drip from the ceiling caused the audience to squeeze in even tighter to stay dry, McClatchy did all he could to keep the show going until the fire department arrived and forced the building to evacuate. As the guests and artists were ushered outside, McClatchy was disappointed that the crowd missed out on hearing his libretto read, but mused, “At first I thought it was a sign from God. Apparently it was just a bowel movement. Ah well. They deserve equal thanks for inspiring great art as well.”

The Leopard has been commissioned by and is currently in development at American Opera Projects, made possible, in part, through generous funding by The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and The Paul Underwood Charitable Trust.

Staged Piano Vocal Reading of scenes from The Leopard at Manhattan School of Music. March 13, 2016. Photo by Steven Pisano.

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POET AND LIBRETTIST J. D. MCCLATCHY TO PREVIEW NEW OPERA IN AFTERNOON OF POETRY AND MUSIC

October 23, 2014

Afternoon at NYC’s Poets House to feature libretto reading and music performance from The Leopard, based on famous Italian novel

Leopard-1.1

NEW YORK, NY – AOP (American Opera Projects) and Poets House present a discussion with award-winning poet and librettist J. D. McClatchy followed by a reading of his latest opera libretto The Leopard, based on the acclaimed novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and directed by James Robinson. The discussion will be joined by The Leopard‘s composer Michael Dellaira and will feature a performance of music from the opera-in-development and a mid-event reception with the artists. The event will take place on Saturday, November 8 at 3 PM at Kray Hall in Poets House (10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282 in Battery Park City). Tickets are $10, $7 for students and seniors, free to Poets House members and can be purchased at www.poetshouse.org.

Commissioned and in development by AOP, The Leopard is the third opera from librettist J. D. McClatchy and composer Michael Dellaira, following The Secret Agent (2011) and The Death of Webern (2013). In their latest opera, the Prince of Salina, known as The Leopard because of his commanding personality, faces a society in upheaval during Garibaldi’s 1860 invasion of Sicily, and is forced to choose between decay and progress, between the downfall of the nobility and the future of his family. The completed opera will be in two acts.

The Leopard has been commissioned by AOP and is currently in development as part pf the Brooklyn organization’s First Chance program that gives composers and librettists a first chance to hear their work performed before an audience. Development of the opera is made possible, in part, through generous funding by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and the Paul Underwood Charitable Trust.

Based on the internationally acclaimed 1958 novel Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard was also adapted into the 1963 film classic by Luchino Visconti starring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

J. D. McClatchy is the author of eight books of poems, most recently Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (Knopf). He has written libretti for Francis Thorne’s Mario and the Magician (1994), Tobias Picker’s Emmeline (1996), Lorin Maazel’s 1984 (with Thomas Meehan, 2005), Lowell Liebermann’s Miss Lonelyhearts (2006), Ned Rorem’s Our Town (2006), Elliot Goldenthal’s Grendel (with Julie Taymor, 2006), Bernard Rands’s Vincent (2011), Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012), Martin Bresnick’s My Friend’s Story (2013), and Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne (2013). His work has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala, the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Opera, and other leading opera stages around the world.

James Robinson is regarded as one of America’s most inventive and sought-after stage directors. Artistic Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Robinson has staged productions for major opera companies, including New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Canadian Opera Company, San Francisco Opera, and Seattle Opera. Recent projects include the world premiere of Picker’s Dolores Claiborne for San Francisco Opera, the American premiere of Huang Ruo’s Dr. Sun Yat Sen for Santa Fe Opera and the world premiere of Champion.

Michael Dellaira is the composer of three operas. His first, Chéri, on a libretto by Susan Yankowitz, produced by The Actors Studio and directed by Tony-Award winner Carlin Glynn, was a finalist for the 2006 American Academy of Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers Award in Musical Theater. From 2006-2010 he was composer-in-residence with the Center for Contemporary Opera, which co-commissioned The Secret Agent, his first collaboration with J. D. McClatchy. The Death of Webern, also on a libretto by J.D. McClatchy, was commissioned by The Pocket Opera Players and premiered in October 2013.

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS

AOP‘s mission is to identify, develop and present new and innovative works of music theater by emerging and established artists and to engage our audiences in an immersive, transformative theatrical experience. At the forefront of the contemporary opera movement for a quarter-century, AOP creates, develops and presents opera and music theatre projects collaborating with young, rising and established artists in the field. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, most recently Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One at BAM (2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (2013), a co-production with Lincoln Center Festival. AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers include Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at PROTOTYPE (2014), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), and Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011). www.operaprojects.org

Poets House is a national 60,000-volume poetry library, literary center for adults and children, and exhibition space that invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry. Poets House – through its poetry resources, literary events, and archival and poetry-related visual art exhibitions – documents the wealth and diversity of modern poetry and stimulates public dialogue on issues related to poetry in culture. Founded in 1985 by two-time Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz and legendary arts administrator Elizabeth Kray, the library has created a home for all who read and write poetry. In 2009, Poets House moved into its permanent home, at 10 River Terrace in Battery Park City, on the banks of the Hudson River. For more information about these events and Poets House in general, visit poetshouse.org and join us on Facebook and Twitter.


AOP commissions AS ONE and THE LEOPARD

August 28, 2013

“For things to remain the same everything must change” is the theme woven into two AOP operas-in-development, As One and The Leopard, commissioned during AOP’s 25th year creating a new opera repertory.  The operas will be developed in AOP’s First Chance program, which is funded, in part, by a generous multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

As One is an original music theater work to be created by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell, and filmmaker Kimberly Reed. The chronicles of a transgender person as she emerges into harmony with herself and the world around her are portrayed with compassion, candor, and humor.  The Leopard, an opera based on the twentieth-century novel by Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and famously filmed by Luchino Visconti, is brought to life by composer Michael Dellaira and poet/librettist J.D. McClatchy.  While its narrative unfolds in Sicily during the “Risorgimento,” the story is driven by the forces Love and Death, summed up in the novel’s confounding theme: “for things to remain the same everything must change.”

AS ONE

As One’s composer, Kaminsky, received a award from New York State Council of the Arts for As One, commissioned to be part of AOP’s on-going Operatic Monodrama series.  The work is being written expressly for acclaimed singers mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and baritone Kelly Markgraf, who will share the role of the protagonist. They will be joined by the renowned Miró Quartet. An interactive film will be created by Kimberly Reed that serves as the production’s background.  Workshops will begin in 2014 with in-house and public workshop performances at AOP’s home base, as well as at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Fisher Building in Fort Greene.  2015 project activity will include collaborations with two other opera companies; UrbanArias in Arlington, VA; and West Edge Opera in Berkeley, CA; two Conservatories of Music, U of Texas and SUNY Purchase, and one presenting institution, BAM.

THE LEOPARD

The Leopard received a generous $125,000 grant from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation for commissioning and project development.  The story of The Leopard is as relevant today as it would have been a thousand years ago, and as it will be a thousand years hence.  The opera will be in two acts, scored for orchestra and a cast of approximately 15 singers.

As One and The Leopard will enter AOP’s First Chance program where composers and librettists hear their work in part or in full for the first time before an audience with live singers and accompaniment.  Through question and answer sessions and collecting  feedback, First Chance allows the participation of audience members to help hone and revise new works while artists discover their own voices.

Filmmaker Kimberly Reed, composer Laura Kaminsky, and librettist Mark Campbell working on the libretto for As One.

Filmmaker Kimberly Reed, composer Laura Kaminsky, and librettist Mark Campbell working on the libretto for As One.

AOP has produced over 20 world premiere operas and many began in First Chance, including the recent co-production of Lera Auerbach’s The Blind with Lincoln Center and Norway’s Trondheim Chamber Music festivals; Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at The Royal Opera House (London) and Jack Perla’s Love/Hate at San Francisco Opera Center’s Adler Fellows program. Upcoming: Gregory Spears and AOP-developed Paul’s Case premiered at UrbanArias in 2013 will be seen at HERE Arts Center in NYC and Pittsburgh Opera in 2014, and Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom, at Schomburg Library and Irondale Ensemble,

CREATOR BIOS

Mark CMark Campbellampbell was recently profiled in Opera News as one of twenty-five artists “poised…to become major forces in opera in the coming decade.” In his ten years as a librettist, Mark has written nine operas and collaborated with such notable composers as Mark Adamo, Lembit Beecher, William Bolcom, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, John Musto, Paul Moravec, Richard Peaslee and Kevin Puts.  A Letter from E. 11th Street was the first commission from AOP. That double monodrama, with music by Martin Hennessey, recently won the Pellicotti Opera Competitino Prize. Mark’s most recent work, Silent Night, which he wrote with composer Kevin Puts for Minnesota Opera, received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Other successful operas include: VolponeLater the Same EveningBastianello/Lucrezia, and Rappahannock County. As a lyricist, Mark penned the lyrics for Songs from an Unmade Bed, a theatrical song cycle with music by 18 composers. Other musicals for which he has written lyrics include: The AudienceChang & Eng, and Splendora. Other awards: first recipient of the Kleban Foundation Award for Lyricist, two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a New York Foundation for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship, three Drama Desk Award nominations, a Rockefeller Foundation Award, and a Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award. www.markcampbellwords.com

Michael DellairaMichael Dellaira is the composer of three operas. His first, Chéri, initially developed at AOP on a libretto by Susan Yankowitz, was produced by The Actors Studio and directed by Tony-Award winner Carlin Glynn.  From 2006-2010 Michael was composer-in-residence with the Center for Contemporary Opera, which co-commissioned The Secret Agent, his first collaboration with J.D. McClatchy.  The Death of Webern, also on a libretto by McClatchy, was commissioned by The Pocket Opera Players and will premiere in October, 2013. His monodrama Maud was awarded First Prize from the American Society of University Composers.  Dellaira has been a recipient of an ASCAP Morton Gould Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, two residencies at The Composers Conference, grants from the American Music Center, Cary Trust, Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, New Jersey Arts Council and a Jerome Foundation commission from the American Composers Forum. www.michaeldellaira.com

Laura KaminskyLaura Kaminsky is a composer with “an ear for the new and interesting” whose works are “colorful and harmonically sharp-edged” (The New York Times) and whose “musical language is compounded of hymns, blues, and gestures not unlike those of Shostakovich” (inTune). Kaminsky has received commissions, fellowships, and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Koussevitzky Music Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Aaron Copland Fund, Chamber Music America, American Music Center, USArtists International, CEC ArtsLink International Partnerships, Kenan Institute for the Arts, Artist Trust, and Meet the Composer, among others. She has received four ASCAP-Chamber Music America Awards for Adventuresome Programming and is the recipient of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage 2010 Chopin Award. She has been a fellow at artists’ communities including the Hermitage Artist Retreat Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Centrum Foundation, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is Artistic Director of Symphony Space in New York City and is on the faculty at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College/SUNY. www.laurakaminsky.com

J.D. McClatchyJ. D. McClatchy, librettist, is the author of eight books of poems, most recently Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (Knopf). He was also written three collections of essays, including American Writers at Home (2004), and edited dozens of other books. He teaches at Yale, is editor of The Yale Review, and has served as President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His first opera libretto was for William Schuman’s A Question of Taste, which premiered in 1989. He subsequently wrote libretti for Francis Thorne’s Mario and the Magician (1994), Bruce Saylor’s Orpheus Descending (1994), Tobias Picker’s Emmeline (1996), Lorin Maazel’s 1984 (with Thomas Meehan, 2005), Lowell Liebermann’s Miss Lonelyhearts (2006), Ned Rorem’s Our Town (2006), and Elliot Goldenthal’s Grendel (with Julie Taymor, 2006), Michael Dellaira’s The Secret Agent (2011), Bernard Rands’s Vincent (2011), Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012), Martin Bresnick’s My Friend’s Story (2013), Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne (2013), Michael Dellaira’s The Death of Webern (2013), and Jeanine Tesori’s The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me (2013). His work has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala, the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Opera, and other leading opera stages around the world.

Kimberly ReedKimberly Reed is a filmmaker living in New York City. Her work has been featured on media outlets such as the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, NPR, Details magazine, and The Moth Radio Hour. Her work has made her one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) fellow, and has led to multiple fellowships at the Yaddo Artists’ Community and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Kimberly Reed directed and produced Prodigal Sons, a “whiplash doc that heralds an exciting talent.” Prodigal Sons, a co-production with BBC Storyville and Sundance Channel, premiered at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival. The film has gone on to be shown around the globe in theaters, at over a hundred film festivals, and on worldwide television. The film landed on multiple Best of the Year lists and garnered 14 Audience and Jury awards, including the esteemed International Film Critics’ FIPRESCI Prize. Ms. Reed was recognized as Towleroad’s “Best LGBT Character of the Film Year,” The Advocate’s “Five to Watch,” and OUT Magazine’s “Out 100.” She was also the producer/editor/writer for Paul Goodman Changed My Life, released theatrically by Zeitgeist Films. Kim is a proud GLSEN and NewFest board member, a Queer/Art/Film mentor, a summa cum laude graduate of UC Berkeley, and a Montana native.


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