Gian Carlo Menotti

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, along with over two dozen other operas intended to appeal to popular taste.

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.

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.

Gian Carlo Menotti
Menotti in 2000
Menotti in 2000
BornJuly 7, 1911
Cadegliano-Viconago, Italy
DiedFebruary 1, 2007 (aged 95)
Monte Carlo, Monaco
PartnerSamuel Barber

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.

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 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]

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

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:

  • Amahl and the Night Visitors: Vocal Score. G. Schirmer Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-88188-965-2.
  • The Telephone: Vocal Score. G. Schirmer Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-7935-5370-9.
  • The Medium: Vocal Score. G. Schirmer Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-7935-1546-7.
  • Mass for the Contemporary English Liturgy. G. Schirmer Inc., 1990.

See also

  • See: List of music students by teacher: K to M#Gian Carlo Menotti.



  1. ^ The New York Times, February 2, 2007
  2. ^ a b 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
  11. ^
  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.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), Retrieved March 2016
  15. ^ Theatre profile on MySpoleto. Accessed February 25, 2015. (in Italian)


  • Wlaschin, Ken, Gian Carlo Menotti on Screen: Opera, Dance and Choral Works on Film, Television and Video. McFarland & Company, 1999. ISBN 0-7864-0608-9
  • Gruen, John, Menotti: A Biography. Macmillan Pub. Co, 1978. ISBN 0-02-546320-9.

External links

Amahl and the Night Visitors

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.

Amelia Goes to the Ball

Amelia al ballo (Amelia Goes to the Ball) 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.


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).Cadegliano-Viconago borders the following municipalities: Cremenaga, Croglio (Switzerland), Cugliate-Fabiasco, Lavena Ponte Tresa, Marchirolo, Marzio, Monteggio (Switzerland), Montegrino Valtravaglia.

Cadegliano-Viconago is the birthplace of Gian Carlo Menotti, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Help, Help, the Globolinks!

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.

La Loca (opera)

La Loca (The Madwoman), also known as Juana la Loca (Crazy Joanna), is an opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, composed in 1979. It is a romantic drama about the life of Joanna of Castille (1479–1555). It was written as a vehicle for soprano Beverly Sills and received its premiere on June 3, 1979, at the San Diego Opera, followed by the New York City Opera. Critical response was largely negative, so Menotti completely reworked it. The revised version premiered in 1982 at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. The American premiere of the revised version took place at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 1, 1984.

Labyrinth (opera)

Labyrinth is an opera in one act by composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The work was commissioned for television by the NBC Opera Theatre and uses an English language libretto by the composer. Unlike Menotti's previous television operas, such as Amahl and the Night Visitors, this opera was written with no intention of being moved to live stage performance later. Menotti intended for this work to utilize the special effects unique to television which could not be recreated in live theatre. As a result, NBC's television production of the opera is the only performance the work has received. At its premiere in March 1963 the opera was mainly criticized by the press for its trite use of allegory and music which rejected the avant-garde in favour of romanticism. Critic Harold C. Schonberg stated in his review in The New York Times that, "Menotti falls back on the procedures he has always used: the scraps of canonic imitation, the stretches of parlando, the Puccini like melodies, the banal waltz themes... [It] ended up an allegory that had all the dimension of a Mobius strip: an example of slick television and cinema of the 1960s wedded pretty much to music of the 1890s... On the whole Labyrinth is one of the thinnest musical concoctions Menotti has ever put together.

However, Schonberg did praise the quality of both the acting and singing given by the performers. The cast included John Reardon as The Bridegroom, Judith Raskin as The Bride, Elaine Bonazzi as The Spy, Robert White as The Old Chess Player, Beverly Wolff as The Executive Director, Bob Rickner as The Executive Director's Secretary, Frank Porretta as The Astronaut, Leon Lishner as Death, John West as Death's Assistant, Nikiforos Naneris as The Bellboy, and Eugene Green as The Italian Opera Singer. Kirk Browning directed the production with Herbert Grossman serving as conductor, Noel Taylor as costume designer, and Warren Clymer as set designer.

List of television operas

This is a list of operas specifically written for television performance.

Maria Golovin

Maria Golovin is an English language opera in three acts by Gian Carlo Menotti. It is through-composed and centers on a romantic encounter between a blind recluse named Donato and the title character, a married woman living in a European country a few years after a recent war. The work was commissioned by Peter Herman Adler of the NBC Opera Theatre.

Its first performance was at the International Exposition Pavilion Theater at Expo '58 in Brussels on 20 August 1958. Later that year, David Merrick and the NBC Opera mounted a Broadway production billed as a "musical drama." It was staged by Menotti and ran for five performances at the Martin Beck Theatre. The cast included Patricia Neway, Ruth Kobart, Norman Kelley, William Chapman, and Richard Cross, who won the 1959 Theatre World Award for his performance. Maria Golovin is not part of the usual operatic repertory and rarely is performed today, although The Paley Center for Media (Museum of Television & Radio) in New York scheduled a screening of the 1959 NBC Opera production of the work, starring Franca Duval, Richard Cross, and Patricia Neway, for May 21, 2011 at 2 p.m. followed by a discussion with Mr. Cross.

Martin's Lie

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.

The Boy Who Grew Too Fast

The Boy Who Grew Too Fast is a "one-act opera for young people" with music and libretto by Gian-Carlo Menotti. It was first performed by OperaDelaware at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware, on September 24, 1982.

The Consul

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

The Hero (opera)

The Hero is a two-act opera by Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti. Commissioned by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the work premiered at the Philadelphia Academy of Music on June 1, 1976. At this point of his career, Menotti's style of composition, which rejected the avant-garde, was out of favor with the classical music world. Time stated in its review of the opera, "Most of Menotti's music is passable Puccini: melodic, easy to take—and totally beside the point in 1976."

The Island God

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.

Although the opera’s only performances were in English, Menotti wrote the libretto in Italian (as Ilo e Zeus).

The Last Savage

The Last Savage is an opera in three acts by composer Gian Carlo Menotti. Menotti wrote his own libretto, originally in the Italian language (L'ultimo selvaggio). The opera was translated into French (Le dernier sauvage) 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.

The opera was originally intended for the larger Paris Opéra, and the title was changed from The Last Superman to The Wild Man then to its final form. Menotti went back to his own Italian language in composing the libretto, but the premiere was in French; Menotti was also the producer of the premiere production. Opera magazine congratulated him and the conductor for “a beautifully thought-out and executed performance” which was “enormously applauded with one solitary boo-er”.However, The Last Savage was harshly ridiculed by French music critics, continuing a succession of critical failures for Menotti which began with The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore (1956). The French daily newspaper Le Figaro went so far as to describe the work as "A Misery".

The Medium

The Medium is a short (one-hour-long) two-act dramatic opera with words and music by Gian Carlo Menotti. Commissioned by Columbia University, its first performance was there on 8 May 1946. The opera's first professional production was presented on a double bill with Menotti's The Telephone at the Heckscher Theater, New York City, February 18–20, 1947 by the Ballet Society. The Broadway production took place on May 1, 1947, at the Ethel Barrymore Theater with the same cast.In 1951, Menotti directed, with the help of filmmaker Alexander Hammid, a film version made to resemble film noir, and starring Anna Maria Alberghetti. A live television production starring Marie Powers took place on 12 December 1948 on the TV series Studio One.

It was also filmed for Australian TV in 1960.

The Medium (1951 film)

The Medium (Italian: Il medium) is a 1951 Italian drama film directed by Gian Carlo Menotti. It is based on the opera of the same name and was entered into the 1952 Cannes Film Festival. It would later be screened out of competition at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.

The Saint of Bleecker Street

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.

The opera is through-composed, and set in the intensely Catholic Little Italy of New York City in 1954. It follows Annina, a young and simple woman who is blessed with the stigmata. She often hears voices and has visions of the angels. Her brother, Michele, is an atheist who is intensely protective of his sister; he believes she requires hospitalization, but he cannot stop the rest of the neighborhood from believing her a saint.

The Saint of Bleecker Street won Menotti the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1955 and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. Although it is not part of the standard operatic repertory, recordings of it exist, and it is occasionally performed.

The original set for The Saint of Bleecker Street was designed by the American symbolic realist painter George Tooker, and was based on elements from his painting The Subway, currently in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The Telephone

The Telephone, or L'Amour à trois is an English-language comic opera in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti, both words and music. It was written for production by the Ballet Society and was first presented on a double bill with Menotti's The Medium at the Heckscher Theater, New York City, February 18–20, 1947. The Broadway production took place on May 1, 1947, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The Metropolitan Opera presented it once, on July 31, 1965.

The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore

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.

Gian Carlo Menotti (1911 – 2007)

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