Gian Carlo Menotti


Learning music from his mother, Menotti made his first attempts at operatic composition at the age of 10. Soon after he began at the Milan Conservatoire (1923-27); on graduation he travelled to America, where he studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Completing his studies there in 1933 he remained there to teach, In 1937 he had his first successful stage work, Amelia Goes to the Ball, and he was to write several popular works in a similar vein. His works The Medium (1946) and The Telephone (1947) mark the high point of his success, and were among the first American works to gain a place in the operatic repertory while appeasing the popular audience.

Menotti wrote his own libretti, and in addition wrote texts for his housemate and lover Samuel Barber, including the libretto for Vanessa, Barber’s most famous opera. He was unafraid to exploit his Italian heritage; the lyricism of Verdi and Puccini, the verisimo plotlines of his serious operas and a concurrent gentle humour mark his works out. Though not a paid-up modernist, he was happy to build dramatic tension with atonality, polytonality and dissonant climaxes.

Accolades for Menotti continued to arrive; his opera The Consul (1950) won the Pulitzer Prize, and he repeated the achievement in 1955 with The Saint of Bleeker Street, written the previous year. Menotti would also, whenever possible, direct productions of his works. In addition to operas, he wrote numerous concertos, occasional pieces and vocal works.

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