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. 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.
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. 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, 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.