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A new opera exploring the emotional world of the world’s greatest polymath

2019 is the 500th anniversary year of Leonardo da Vinci's death and it felt like a fitting time to create a new piece exploring his life. Instead of focusing on his achievements in art or engineering, I have chosen to delve into his personal life, emotional world and sexuality - aspects of his life which are much less explored. The aim of the piece is to help audiences get closer to the mind and man behind some of the world's greatest works of art.

There are two performances on Saturday November 9th (13:30 and 16:00) Tickets available here.

The venue: the V&A’s Grade-I listed lecture theatre

The venue: the V&A’s Grade-I listed lecture theatre

“Leonardo” is my second opera and will premiere in the beautiful Grade-I listed lecture theatre of the V&A: November 8th & 9th. The piece draws on Leonardo’s own writings - his precious journals and notebooks - five of which are in the V&A’s collection.

The piece has been created in consultation with two world leading Leonardo experts and will be brought to life by a stellar line-up of artists, including internationally-renowned Viol consort, Fretwork.

The subject matter: assistants, sons & lovers

Left: Salai, Right: Francesco Melzi

Left: Salai, Right: Francesco Melzi

Leonardo’s life, interests and work span so many different facets of life that the challenge in this piece was deciding what to focus on. With so much going on about Leonardo’s art and work in this anniversary year, I thought the opportunity for opera was to explore his emotional and inner world - a part of his life that is lesser explored.

The piece focuses on his relationships with two pivotal men in his life, his assistants Salai and Melzi. Salai joined Leonardo’s household as a boy and stayed with him for over 20 years. It’s clear they were very close and in time became either intimate friends, companions or lovers, perhaps all three. Francesco Melzi joined the household later in Leonardo’s life. A contrasting character to the ‘devilish’ Salai, Melzi was educated, aristocratic and a loyal servant who became like a surrogate son to Leonardo and inherited the majority of his estate.

The piece explore Leonardo’s relationships with both men and uses their contrasting characters to try and catch rare glimpses of Leonardo's emotional life and sexuality.

The text: drawn from Leonardo’s precious journals

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The text for the opera has been drawn from Leonardo’s extensive and fascinating personal notebooks, five of which are held in the V&A museum itself, and other writings from Leonardo's time.

The text has been created by playwright Brian Mullin, in consultation with two world-leading Leonardo experts: Martin Kemp (Emeritus Research Professor in the History of Art at Oxford University) and Martin Clayton (Head of Prints and Drawings for Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle).

Rather than a traditional linear narrative, an assortment of vignettes and episodes unfold that explore the subject matter from a variety of different angles.

The team:

A stellar cast of singers - Tom Randle, Feargal Mostyn-Williams and Richard Immerglück - are joined by the celebrated viol consort Fretwork (“the finest viol consort on the planet” – Evening Standard) and critically-acclaimed conductor Tim Anderson, in this exciting new addition to contemporary opera.

From Left to Right: Tom Randle (Leonardo), Feargal Mostyn-Williams (counter-tenor), and Richard Immerglück (Melzi).

From Left to Right: Tom Randle (Leonardo), Feargal Mostyn-Williams (counter-tenor), and Richard Immerglück (Melzi).

Internationally-acclaimed viol consort, Fretwork, will be the ensemble in the performance.

Internationally-acclaimed viol consort, Fretwork, will be the ensemble in the performance.

There are two performances on Saturday November 9th (13:30 and 16:00), Tickets available here.

Alex Mills gratefully acknowledges support from PRS for Music Foundation in bringing “Leonardo” to life.

Please contact amillsprojects@gmail.com if you have any questions.



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