Gian-Carlo Menotti biography

Gian-Carlo Menotti

Gian-Carlo Menotti Biography

Gian Carlo Menotti, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1944
Gian Carlo Menotti, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1944

Gian Carlo Menotti (born July 7, 1911, Cadegliano, Italy) is an Italian-born American composer. He wrote the classic Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. He founded the noted Il Festival dei Due Mondi (the Festival of Two Worlds) in 1958, and its American counterpart, Spoleto Festival USA, in 1977.

Menotti began writing songs when he was 7 and at 11 wrote both the libretto and music for his first opera, The Death of Pierrot. He began formal training at Milan's Verdi Conservatory in 1923.

After the death of his father, Menotti and his mother came to the United States and he enrolled in Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. Fellow students at Curtis included Leonard Bernstein, and Samuel Barber, who became Menotti's partner in life and in work, with Menotti crafting the libretto for Barber's most famous opera, Vanessa, which was commissioned to open the new Metropolitan Opera. It was at Curtis that he wrote his first mature opera, Amelia al Ballo (Amelia Goes to the Ball), to his own Italian text. The Island God and The Last Savage were the only other operas he wrote in Italian, the rest being in English. He wrote the libretti of all his operas. His most successful works were composed in the 1940s and 1950s.

He wrote the libretti to two Samuel Barber operas; Vanessa and A Hand of Bridge, as well as revising the latter for Antony and Cleopatra. Amelia was so successful that NBC commissioned an opera for radio; The Old Maid and the Thief was the first such work ever written. Following this, he wrote a ballet, Sebastian (1944), and a piano concerto (1945) before returning to opera with The Medium and The Telephone.

His first full-length opera, The Consul, was premiered in 1950; it won both the Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Drama Circle Critics' Award for Musical Play of the Year (the latter in 1954). In 1951, Menotti wrote his beloved Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. In 1958, he founded the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy; he founded its companion festival, in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1977.

He left Spoleto USA in 1993 to take the helm of the Rome Opera. In 1984 Menotti was awarded the Kennedy Center Honor for achievement in the arts, and in 1991 he was chosen Musical America's 'Musician of the Year.' In addition to composing operas to his own texts, on his own chosen subject matter, Menotti directs most productions of his work.

Menotti also had a long intimate relationship with the conductor Thomas Schippers.

Menotti has written several ballets, and numerous choral works as well. He has also written a violin concerto, and a stage play (The Leper). It is in the field of opera, however, that he has made his most notable contributions to American cultural life. His operas include:

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