Gian Carlo Menotti

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Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti (46197651081).jpg
Menotti in 2000
Born(1911-07-07)July 7, 1911
Cadegliano-Viconago, Italy
DiedFebruary 1, 2007(2007-02-01) (aged 95)
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Partner Samuel Barber

Gian Carlo Menotti ( /məˈnɒti/ , Italian:  [dʒaŋ ˈkarlo meˈnɔtti] ; 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 , along with over two dozen other operas intended to appeal to popular taste.

Libretto text used for an extended musical work

A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.

<i>Amahl and the Night Visitors</i> opera by Gian Carlo Menotti

Amahl and the Night Visitors is an opera in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti with an original English libretto by the composer. It was commissioned by NBC and first performed by the NBC Opera Theatre on December 24, 1951, in New York City at NBC studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, where it was broadcast live on television from that venue as the debut production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America.


He won a Pulitzer Prize twice, for The Consul (1950) and for The Saint of Bleecker Street (1955). He founded the noted Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) in Spoleto 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.

Pulitzer Prize U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$15,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal.

<i>The Consul</i> Opera by Gian Carlo Menotti

The Consul is an opera in three acts with music and libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, his first full-length opera.

<i>The Saint of Bleecker Street</i> opera by Gian Carlo Menotti

The Saint of Bleecker Street is an opera in three acts by Gian Carlo Menotti to an original English libretto by the composer. It was first performed at the Broadway Theatre in New York City on December 27, 1954. David Poleri and Davis Cunningham alternated in the role of Michele, and Thomas Schippers conducted. It ran for 92 consecutive performances.

Menotti died on February 1, 2007, at the age of 95 in a hospital in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where he had a home. He was buried in East Lothian, Scotland.

Early life and education

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.

Cadegliano-Viconago Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Cadegliano-Viconago is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Varese in the Italian region Lombardy, located about 60 kilometres (37 mi) northwest of Milan and about 15 kilometres (9 mi) north of Varese, on the border with Switzerland. As of 31 December 2004, it had a population of 1,760 and an area of 10.2 square kilometres (3.9 sq mi).

Kingdom of Italy kingdom on the Appenine Peninsula between 1861 and 1946

The Kingdom of Italy was a state which existed from 1861—when King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia was proclaimed King of Italy—until 1946—when civil discontent led an institutional referendum to abandon the monarchy and form the modern Italian Republic. The state was founded as a result of the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which can be considered its legal predecessor state.

Lake Maggiore lake in Italy and Switzerland

Lake Maggiore or Verbano is a large lake located on the south side of the Alps. It is the second largest lake in Italy and the largest in southern Switzerland. The lake and its shoreline are divided between the Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy and the Swiss canton of Ticino. Located halfway between Lake Orta and Lake Lugano, Lake Maggiore extends for about 65 kilometres between Locarno and Arona.

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.

Colombia Country in South America

Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia, is a sovereign state largely situated in the north of South America, with land, and territories in North America. Colombia is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea and the west by the Pacific. It comprises thirty-two departments, with the capital in Bogotá.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2018 census-estimated population of 1,584,138. Since 1854, the city has had the same geographic boundaries as Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

Curtis Institute of Music music school

The Curtis Institute of Music is a private conservatory in Philadelphia that offers courses of study leading to a performance diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera, or Professional Studies Certificate in Opera. It is among the most selective institutes of higher education in the world with an admissions rate between 4 and 5%.

Barber became Menotti's 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 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]

<i>Vanessa</i> (opera) opera

Vanessa is an American opera in three acts by Samuel Barber, opus 32, with an original English libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti. It was composed in 1956–1957 and was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 15, 1958 under the baton of Dimitri Mitropoulos in a production designed by Cecil Beaton and directed by Menotti. Barber revised the opera in 1964, reducing the four acts to the three-act version most commonly performed today.

Metropolitan Opera Opera company in Manhattan, New York City

The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company based in New York City, resident at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager. As of 2018, the company's current music director is Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

West Chester, Pennsylvania Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

West Chester is a borough and the county seat of Chester County, Pennsylvania, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The population was 18,461 at the 2010 census.

In 1974, Menotti adopted Francis "Chip" Phelan, an American actor and figure skater [5] [6] he had known since the early 1960s. In the same year, Menotti, persuaded by the good acoustics of the main room, [7] [8] purchased the ancestral home of the Marquess of Tweeddale, Yester House, in the village of Gifford, East Lothian, in Scotland. While there, he jokingly referred to himself as "Mr McNotti".

Career as composer

Gian Carlo Menotti, photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1944 Gcmenotti.jpg
Gian Carlo Menotti, photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1944

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 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 example of the traditional romantic Italianate style, with a nod to (but not an imitation of) Puccini and, notably, Mascagni (whose final opera, Nerone, had premiered in 1935). The success of Amelia prompted NBC to commission 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). American soprano Patricia Neway starred as the tormented protagonist Magda Sorel, for which she won the Donaldson Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1950. Menotti apparently intended to give a role to a then-unknown Maria Callas, but the producer would not have it. [9] In 1951, Menotti wrote his Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors for NBC. It was the first opera ever written for television in America, [10] 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 BaltimoreMass 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 Menotti's operas


Spoleto Festivals

Menotti founded the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy in 1958, and its companion festival, Spoleto Festival USA, 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. [12]

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 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.

Spoleto in Melbourne

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. However, while he was in Melbourne, he put the finishing touches to his opera Goya. The Melbourne Spoleto Festival has now become the Melbourne International Arts Festival. [13]


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 chosen subject matter, Menotti directed most productions of his work.

In 1997, he was awarded the Brock Commission from the American Choral Directors Association. [14]

In 2010, the main theatre in Spoleto was renamed as the Teatro Nuovo Gian Carlo Menotti to honour his role as creator and spirit of the festival. [15]


Vocal scores of his compositions:

See also

Related Research Articles

Thomas Schippers American conductor

Thomas Schippers was an American conductor. He was highly regarded for his work in opera.

<i>A Hand of Bridge</i> opera

A Hand of Bridge, opus 35, is an opera in one act composed by Samuel Barber with libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, and is possibly the shortest opera that is regularly performed: it lasts about nine minutes. It premiered as a part of Menotti’s Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto on 17 June 1959 at the Teatro Caio Melisso. The United States premiere occurred the next year. The opera consists of two unhappily married couples playing a hand of bridge, during which each character has an arietta in which he or she professes his or her inner desires.

The Festival dei Due Mondi(Festival of the Two Worlds) is an annual summer music and opera festival held each June to early July in Spoleto, Italy, since its founding by composer Gian Carlo Menotti in 1958. It features a vast array of concerts, opera, dance, drama, visual arts and roundtable discussions on science.

Christian Badea is a Romanian-American opera and symphonic conductor.

Lee Henry Hoiby was an American composer and classical pianist. Best known as a composer of operas and songs, he was a disciple of composer Gian Carlo Menotti. Like Menotti, his works championed lyricism at a time when such compositions were deemed old fashioned. His most well known work is his setting of Tennessee Williams's Summer and Smoke, which premiered at the St Paul Opera in 1971.

<i>Antony and Cleopatra</i> (opera) English-language opera by Samuel Barber

Antony and Cleopatra, Op. 40, is an opera in three acts by American composer Samuel Barber. The libretto was prepared by Franco Zeffirelli. It was based on the play Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare and made use of Shakespeare's language exclusively.

Francis "Chip" Menotti is an actor and former figure skater who was the president and artistic director of Festival dei Due Mondi.

Rosemary Kuhlmann was an American operatic mezzo-soprano and Broadway musical actress best known for originating the role of the Mother in Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, the first opera commissioned for television. Kuhlmann portrayed the role on the annual live NBC broadcast of the production from 1951 through 1962.

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<i>The Island God</i> opera by Gian Carlo Menotti

The Island God is a one-act opera by Gian Carlo Menotti with a libretto by the composer. It was first performed on February 20, 1942, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

<i>Amelia Goes to the Ball</i> opera buffa by Gian Carlo Menotti

Amelia al ballo is a one-act opera buffa by Gian Carlo Menotti, who set his own Italian libretto. Composed during 1936 when Menotti was in his mid-twenties, it was the composer's first mature opera and first critical success. The opera recounts a series of farcical events as a young Italian socialite overcomes obstacles to her attendance at the first ball of the season.

<i>The Last Savage</i> opera buffa in three acts by Gian Carlo Menotti

The Last Savage is an opera in three acts by composer Gian Carlo Menotti. Menotti wrote his own libretto, originally in the Italian language. The opera was translated into French by Jean-Pierre Marty for the work's first (private) performance at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 21 October 1963, followed the next day by the public premiere. George Mead translated the work into English for the opera's American premiere at the Metropolitan Opera the following year.

<i>Help, Help, the Globolinks!</i> opera by Gian Carlo Menotti

Help, Help, the Globolinks! is an opera in four scenes by Gian Carlo Menotti with an original English libretto by the composer. It was commissioned by the Hamburg State Opera and first performed as Hilfe, Hilfe, die Globolinks! in a German translation by Kurt Honolka on December 21, 1968 in a double bill with Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. The opera had its English language premiere on August 1, 1969 in the United States at the Santa Fe Opera in a double bill with Igor Stravinsky's The Nightingale. Both premiere productions were directed by the composer. Many of the cast members from the Santa Fe production reprised their roles for the work's New York debut at the New York City Opera in December 1969.

David Aiken was an American operatic baritone, opera director, and United States Army Air Corps (USSAC) officer. He was particularly associated with the works of Gian Carlo Menotti, and is best remembered for creating the role of King Melchior in the world premiere of Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors.

<i>The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore</i> 1956 opera by Gian Carlo Menotti

The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore or The Three Sundays of a Poet is a "madrigal fable" for chorus, ten dancers and nine instruments with music and original libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti. Based on the 16th-century Italian madrigal comedy genre, it consists of a prologue and 12 madrigals which tell a continuous story, interspersed with six musical interludes. The unicorn, gorgon, and manticore in the title are allegories for three stages in the life of the story's protagonist, a strange poet who keeps the mythical creatures as pets. The work premiered in Washington D.C. at the Library of Congress Coolidge Auditorium on October 19, 1956.

<i>Martins Lie</i> opera by Gian Carlo Menotti

Martin's Lie is a chamber opera in one act with music and an English language libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti. Commissioned by CBS, it was Menotti's third opera for television after Amahl and the Night Visitors and Labyrinth. Although not initially conceived as a work for the stage, the opera premiered in a live theatrical performance on 3 June 1964 at the Bristol Cathedral for the opening of the 17th annual Bath International Music Festival. The opera was subsequently filmed with the same cast for television under the direction of Kirk Browning. The production used sets and costumes by designer Anthony Powell, and was broadcast nationally by CBS for the opera's United States premiere on 30 May 1965.

Gloria Lane Krachmalnick was an American operatic mezzo-soprano who had an active international performance career from 1949 to 1976. In her early career she distinguished herself by creating roles in the world premieres of two operas by Gian Carlo Menotti, the Secretary of the Consulate in The Consul (1950) and Desideria in The Saint of Bleecker Street (1954); both roles which she performed in successful runs on Broadway and on international tours. For her performance in The Consul she was awarded a Clarence Derwent Award and two Donaldson Awards.

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  1. The New York Times, February 2, 2007
  2. 1 2 Time, February 1, 2007
  3. Gian Carlo Menotti
  4. Menotti, brief bio on
  5. Gian Carlo Menotti Biography on
  6. "Gian Carlo Menotti: Opera composer of extraordinary popularity and founder of the Festival of Two Worlds at Spoleto" Archived February 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine , (Obit.), The Independent (London) February 3, 2007, on
  7. Auslan Cramb, "Scotland's Yester House on market for £15 million", The Telegraph (London), August 12, 2008
  8. Overview of Yester House on Retrieved January 21, 2014
  9. Gruen, pp. ??
  10. "Gian Carlo Menotti" (Obituary) in The Telegraph (London), February 2, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2007
  12. Time (Milestones section), February 19, 2007
  13. Bernard Holland, "Lyrical master of libretto and Spoleto",(obituary), The Age, February 3, 2007
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-27.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), Retrieved March 2016
  15. Theatre profile on MySpoleto. Accessed February 25, 2015. (in Italian)