Gian Carlo Menotti

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

Gian Carlo Menotti (pronounced [dʒan ˈkarlo meˈnɔtːi]) (July 7, 1911 – February 1, 2007) was an Italian-American composer and librettist. Although he often referred to himself as an American composer, he kept his Italian citizenship.[1] He wrote the classic Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, among about two dozen other operas intended to appeal to popular taste. He won the Pulitzer Prize for two of them: The Consul (1950) and The Saint of Bleecker Street (1955). He founded the noted Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) in 1958 and its American counterpart, Spoleto Festival USA, in 1977. In 1986 he commenced a Melbourne Spoleto Festival in Australia, but he withdrew after three years.


Life and career

Born in Cadegliano-Viconago, Italy, near Lake Maggiore and the Swiss border, Menotti was the sixth of eight children of Alfonso and Ines Menotti,[2] his father being a coffee merchant. Menotti began writing songs when he was seven years old, and at eleven wrote both the libretto and music for his first opera, The Death of Pierrot. He began his formal musical training at the Milan Conservatory in 1923.

Following her husband's death, Ines Menotti went to Colombia in a futile attempt to salvage the family's coffee business. She took Gian Carlo with her, and in 1928 she enrolled him at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, but she returned to Italy. Armed with a letter of introduction from the wife of Arturo Toscanini, Gian Carlo studied composition at Curtis under Rosario Scalero.[3] Fellow students at Curtis included Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber. Barber became Menotti's lover,and partner in life and in work; with Menotti crafting the libretto for Barber's most famous opera, Vanessa, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1958. As a student, Menotti spent much of his time with the Samuel Barber family in West Chester, Pennsylvania. After graduation, the two men bought a house together in Mount Kisco, New York, which they named "Capricorn" and shared for over forty years.[4] It was at Curtis that Menotti wrote his first mature opera, Amelia Goes to the Ball (Amelia al Ballo), to his own Italian text. The Island God (which he suppressed, though its libretto was printed by the Metropolitan Opera and can be found in many libraries) and The Last Savage were the only other operas he wrote in Italian, the rest being in English. Like Wagner, he wrote the libretti of all his operas. His most successful works were composed in the 1940s and 1950s. Menotti also taught at the Curtis Institute of Music. Music critic Joel Honig served as his personal secretary during the late 1950s.

Menotti founded the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy in 1958, and its companion festival in Charleston, South Carolina in 1977. For three weeks each summer, Spoleto is visited by nearly a half-million people.[2] These festivals were intended to bring opera to a popular audience and helped launch the careers of such artists as singer Shirley Verrett and choreographers Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp.[5] He left Spoleto USA in 1993 to take the helm of the Rome Opera, and in 1986, he extended the concept to a Spoleto Festival in Melbourne, Australia. Menotti was the artistic director during the period of 1986-88, but after three festivals there, he decided to withdraw – and took the naming rights with him. While he was in Melbourne, however, he put the finishing touches to his opera Goya. The Melbourne Spoleto Festival has now become the Melbourne International Arts Festival.[6]

In 1974, Menotti adopted Francis "Chip" Phelan, an American actor and figure skater[7][8] he had known since the early 1960s. In the same year, Menotti – persuaded by the good acoustics of the main room[9] - bought Yester House,[10] in the village of Gifford, East Lothian, in Scotland, the ancestral home of the marquesses of Tweeddale. While there, he jokingly referred to himself as "Mr McNotti".

In 1984 Menotti was awarded a 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 directed most productions of his work.

Menotti died on February 1, 2007, at the age of 95 in a hospital in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where he had a home.

In June and July 2007 the Festival of Two Worlds, which Menotti founded and oversaw until his death, dedicated the 50th Anniversary of the Festival to his memory, organised by his beloved son Francis. Menotti works performed during the festival included Maria Golovin, Landscapes and Remembrances, Missa O Pulchritudo, and The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore.


Menotti wrote the libretti for two of Samuel Barber's operas, Vanessa and A Hand of Bridge, as well as revising the libretto for Antony and Cleopatra. Amelia al Ballo is the only one of Menotti's operas still to be published in its original or perhaps "complementary" Italian libretto (alongside the English) (see Ricordi editions 1937, 1976 and recent): it is an adept example of Italianate style (with a nod to but not an imitation of Puccini and Mascagni) and it is unjustly neglected. It was, however, at the time so successful that NBC commissioned an opera specifically for radio, The Old Maid and the Thief, one of the first such works. Following this, he wrote a ballet, Sebastian (1944), and a piano concerto (1945) before returning to opera with The Medium and The Telephone, or L'Amour à trois.

His first full-length opera, The Consul, which premiered in 1950, won both the Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Musical Play of the Year (the latter in 1954). He intended to give a role to a then-unknown Maria Callas, but the producer would not have it.[11] In 1951, Menotti wrote his beloved Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors for NBC. It was the first opera ever written for television in America,[12] and first aired on Christmas Eve, 1951. The opera was such a success that the broadcasting of Amahl and the Night Visitors became an annual Christmas tradition. It remains Menotti's most popular work to this day. Menotti won a second Pulitzer Prize for his opera The Saint of Bleecker Street in 1955. With Goya, Menotti reverted to a traditional Giovane Scuola Italian style.

Menotti also wrote several ballets and numerous choral works. Notable among these is his cantata The Death of the Bishop of Brindisi, written in 1963, and the cantata Landscapes and Remembrances in 1976 - a descriptive work of Menotti's memories of America written for the United States Bicentennial. Also worthy of note is a small Mass commissioned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore - Mass for the Contemporary English Liturgy. He also wrote a violin concerto, symphonies, and a stage play, The Leper. It was in the field of opera, however, that he made his most notable contributions to American cultural life.

List of operas



Vocal scores of his compositions:

  • Amahl and the Night Visitors: Vocal Score. G. Schirmer Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-881-88965-2.
  • The Telephone: Vocal Score. G. Schirmer Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-793-55370-9.
  • The Medium: Vocal Score. G. Schirmer Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-793-51546-7.
  • Mass for the Contemporary English Liturgy. G. Schirmer Inc., 1990.

Scholarly works about the composer:

  • Wlaschin, Ken. Gian Carlo Menotti on Screen: Opera, Dance and Choral Works on Film, Television and Video. McFarland & Company, 1999. Library Binding: ISBN 0-786-40608-9
  • Gruen, John. Menotti: A Biography. Hardcover. Macmillan Pub Co, 1978. ISBN 0-025-46320-9.

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Gian-Carlo Menotti — Gian Carlo Menotti, fotografiert von Carl van Vechten Gian Carlo Menotti (* 7. Juli 1911 in Cadegliano Viconago, Lombardei; † 1. Februar 2007 in Monte Carlo) war ein US amerikanischer Komponist, vorrangig von Opern. Er inszenierte auch Verfilm …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gian Carlo Menotti — Gian Carlo Menotti, fotografiert von Carl van Vechten Gian Carlo Menotti (* 7. Juli 1911 in Cadegliano Viconago, Lombardei; † 1. Februar 2007 in Monte Carlo) war ein US amerikanischer Komponist, vorrangig von Opern. Er inszenierte auch… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gian Carlo Menotti — Gian Carlo Menotti, fotografiado por Carl Van Vechten en 1944 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Gian Carlo Menotti — (Cadegliano, 7 de julio de 1911). Compositor italiano, nacionalizado estadounidense. Fundador del Festival de los Dos Mundos en 1958 y de su homólogo americano, Spoleto Festival USA, en 1977. Se formó en Milán y se estableció en EEUU en 1928. Su… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Gian Carlo Menotti — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Menotti. Gian Carlo Menotti …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gian Carlo Menotti — noun United States composer (born in Italy) of operas (born in 1911) • Syn: ↑Menotti • Instance Hypernyms: ↑composer …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Gian-Carlo — may refer to: * Gian Carlo Coppola (1963 1986), American film producer * Gian Carlo Menotti (1911 2007), Italian born American composer …   Wikipedia

  • Menotti, Gian Carlo — born July 7, 1911, Cadegliano, Italy Italian born U.S. composer, librettist, and stage director. Having written an opera by age 10, he spent his early teens absorbing the repertoire at La Scala. Arturo Toscanini recommended study at the Curtis… …   Universalium

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