”Menotti used new musical techniques of his time for expressive purposes but strove to make his works accessible to the untrained ear. He uses tonal melodies and harmonies that allow the music to serve the theatrical moment and made opera for popular consumption.”
Lynn Vought (All Music Guide)
American opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti was born in Cadegliano (Italy) near Varese on July 17, 1911. Already at the age of six he composed. While attending the Conservatory in Milan from the age of twelve, he developed a close comradeship with fellow student Samuel Barber, with whom he spent two summers in Europe attending operas. Menotti then studied composition at Rosario Scalero’s Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Here he stayed and taught until 1955. Living in the USA throughout World War II, he continued to sharpen his skills as a librettist and composer. In 1946 he was hired by the Alice M. Ditson Fund. This commission produced the opera The Medium, a tragedy in two acts, which would have a successful series of 211 performances on Broadway.
His first work called Amelia goes to the ball (Amelia al ballo) was successful from the start in 1937. After this comical opera in one act he composed works – mainly for theatre – that were embraced by a growing audience. For any of his opera’s he wrote the libretto himself. His main opera’s are The island God (1942), The medium (1946), The telephone (1947), the Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critics Award winning The consul (1950), the touching television opera for children and adults Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951), Maria Golovin (1958), The labyrinth (1963), The last savage (1963), Martin’s lie (1964), Help, help, the Globolinks (1968), the most important man (1971), Tamu-Tamu (1973), The hero (1976), The egg (1976), La loca (1979), A bride from Pluto (1982), the for singer Plácido Domingo written Goya (1986), and The singing child (1993).
In 1958 Menotti founded the Festival of Two Worlds (Festival dei due mondi) in the Italian city Spoletto, where he directed his own and other people’s opera’s. Being from two worlds himself, the festival is dedicated to cultural cooperation between Europe and America, which was implemented officially in 1977 with the Spoleto USA in Charleston, South Carolina. Menotti was director of this American festival until 1993, when he became artistic director of the eminent Opera of Rome. Still he visits Spoletto as director and he also leads his opera’s elsewhere in the world. His 1996 Spoletto production Amahl and the Night Visitors was issued as film as well, whereas his 1955 film version of The medium is not so well-known. Menotti also directed the television opera’s La Bohème (1986, with Luciano Pavarotti) and Manon Lescaut (1980, with Plácido Domingo).
Spectrum's Opera (ISBN 90-274-6581-9)