Son of “La Mancha” takes stage in Don Giovanni
By Kelly Schlicht
Bass David Leigh’s last name may ring a bell to fans of musical theatre. His father, Mitch Leigh, composed the legendary score to Man of La Mancha.
Leigh will make his Florentine debut as the Commendatore in Don Giovanni this March.
As much as Don Quixote chased windmills, the younger Leigh spent the beginning portions of his career trying to distance himself from his family legacy.
“I didn’t want people to know that first when I was younger and in college. I never wanted people to make me sing ‘the Impossible Dream,’” said Leigh.
Leigh attended Yale University for music composition in his undergraduate studies, just like his father. He calls his singing career “a fluke.”
“When we were graduating, the composition students were advised to go to grad school on an instrument if we weren’t getting commissions for our work,” Leigh said. “I was a mediocre piano player and dabbled in bassoon, so I knew I couldn’t get in on that. I decided to try singing.”
So, at age 22, he began his serious vocal training.
“I spent a year telling people I was a composer, but then I fell in love with singing,” he said.
Leigh, now 28, said he wasn’t ready to let people know his family connection until three years ago. It took a major loss for him to come around to accepting the La Mancha link.
“My father died around the time I was doing the Met Auditions three years ago,” he said. “They were doing PR rounds in the final round of competition, and it occurred to the people running the auditions that I was his son. They encouraged me to share that in my bio, and be more public about it.”
Looking back, Leigh realizes the importance of his father’s Tony Award-winning work, and has become more open about his legacy. “I decided it was time that I could honor him with that, and I think he’d be really proud of me sharing that,” he said.
Leigh has spent this season as a young artist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He said while he has shifted his compositions to the back burner, his involvement at the Met is simultaneously bringing more attention to his work as a composer. This year, he arranged a series of American songs and spirituals for an all-English-language concert at the Met.
Right now, Leigh said he’s comfortable with composing “being an asterisk” to his musical career.
“Maybe someday I’ll compose an opera. But right now, I’m focused on singing,” he said.
See David Leigh perform as the Commendatore in Don Giovanni at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on March 17 & 19.