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Gian Carlo Menotti

Gian Carlo Menotti

(1911 - 2007)

Gian Carlo Menotti, born July 7, 1911, in Cadegliano, (Varese) Italy, wrote and produced his first opera when he was eleven. Following preliminary studies at Milan's Verdi Conservatory, he went to the United States on the advice of Arturo Toscanini and completed his compositional studies under Rosario Scalero at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. His first mature work, the one-act opera buffa Amelia Goes to the Ball, was given its premiere by the Metropolitan Opera in 1938.

Commissioned to write a chamber opera for Columbia University in 1946, he produced The Medium. Coupled with the comic curtain-raiser The Telephone, The Medium was taken up the next season by Ballet Society, and on May 1, 1947, the double bill began an unprecedented six-month Broadway run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, establishing the composer as an international celebrity and launching American Opera on a new and exciting course. Menotti continued his Broadway success with The Consul, written in 1950 and now in the repertoire of many major opera companies. The Consul was first brought to England by sir Lawrence Olivier, made its Italian premiere at La Scala and subsequently was translated into 14 languages. His next major work was The Saint of Bleecker Street, written in 1954. The work also made its Italian Premiere at La Scala. Both The Consul and The Saint of Bleecker Street won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critic's Circle Award. Approached by NBC to create the first television opera, he wrote Amahl and The Night Visitors, a Christmas classic that has received countless performances since its premiere in 1951, reaching a wider audience than any other work in operatic history.

Despite his American upbringing and his Anglo-Saxon fame, Gian Carlo Menotti has never changed his Italian nationality, and consider himself as a decisively Italian composer.

Menotti's operatic output includes the first radio opera, The Old Maid and The Thief; a second television opera, The Labryinth; the church operas (Martin's lie and The Egg); and several operas written for children, including Help, Help, the Globolinks!, Chip and His Dog, A Bride from Pluto, The Boy Who grew Too Fast, and The Singing Child in addition to The Consul and The Saint of Bleecker Street, his major works include Maria Golovin, The Last Savage (the first opera by a non-French composer commissioned by the Paris' Opera since Verdi's Don Carlo. Tamu-Tamu, The Most Important Man, The Hero, Juana La Loca, (written for Beverly Sills), Goya, (written for Placido Domingo and produced by The Washington Opera at the Kennedy Center in 1986) and The Marriage (commissioned by the Olympic Arts Festival and premiered in September, 1988, in Seoul.

As his own librettist, Menotti has also provided operatic texts for other composers (most notably for Samuel Barber's Vanessa, A Hand of Bridge and Introductions and Goodbyes (for Lucas Foss), and his literary output includes plays (A Copy of Madame Aupic, and The Leper) as well as poems, short stories and film scripts. In 1951 he directed and expanded cinematic version of The Medium. Although best known as operatic composer, Menotti has displayed great versatility in a wide range of musical forms, including large-scale orchestral works such as Missa O Pulchritudo, First symphony, The Halcyon, The symphonic Poem Apocalypse, Triple concerto A Tre, Fantasia for Cello and Orchestra and concertos for piano, violin and double bass. He has also written cantatas, such as The Death of the Bishop of Brindisi, Landscapes and Remembrances, Muero porque no muero, A Song of Hope and a Dirge for the Death of Orpheus. Mr Menotti has written for ballet with such pieces as Sebastian, Errand into the Maze and The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore. He has also composed the song cycle Canti della Lontananza commissioned by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, five songs for Tenor and several chamber music pieces including A Suite for Two Cellos written for Piatigorsky. His tremendous record as a stage director includes productions for the Teatro La Scala, The Metropolitan Opera, The Washington Opera and the opera Companies of Munich, Vienna, Berlin and Paris. Since his historic production of La Bohème at the 1960 Festival of Two Worlds, his staging activities has included Così Fan Tutte, The Rake's Progress, Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde, Meistersinger, Carmen, Manon Lescaut, Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro.

Founder of the world-wide acclaimed Festival of Two Worlds in 1958, which also had an Australian parenthesis in the late Eighties and now has definitely settled in Italy, under the name Spoleto Festival, Menotti has discovered and fostered talented young people in virtually every area of the creative and performing arts. Although his Italian citizenship, in recognition of his contributions to the performing arts in America, he was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986. He has been artistic director of the Opera di Roma from 1992 to 1994. He resides in Scotland with his family where is now planning to create a little Opera Theatre. ~ Leonardo Clausi

Menotti's signature

Recommended Recordings

Amahl and the Night Visitors

RCA Victor Gold Seal 6485
Amahl and the Night Visitors/RCA Gold Seal 6485
Davis Aiken, Chet Allen, Rosemary Kuhlmann, Leon Lishner, Andrew McKinley, Frank Monachino, Thomas Schippers/NBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus