2019 is the 500th anniversary year of Leonardo da Vinci’s death – a fitting time to create a new piece exploring his life. Rather than focusing on his achievements in art or engineering, Mills and his librettist Brian Mullins have chosen to explore his lesser-known personal life, emotional world and sexuality. The opera aims to help audiences get closer to the mind and man behind some of the world’s greatest works of art.
The piece focuses on Leonardo’s relationship with two pivotal men – 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 opera uses their contrasting characters to try and catch rare glimpses of Leonardo’s emotional life and sexuality.