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

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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.


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