Gian Carlo Menotti

Gian Carlo Menotti was born on 7 July 1911, in Cadegliano, Italy. At the age of 7, under the guidance of his mother, he began to compose songs, and four years later he wrote the words and music of his first opera, The Death of Pierrot. In 1923 he began his formal musical training at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan. Following the death of his father, his mother took him to the United States, where he was enrolled at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. There he completed his musical studies, working in composition under Rosario Scalero.
His first mature work, the one-act opera buffa, Amelia Goes to the Ball, was premiered in 1937, a success that led to a commission from the National Broadcasting Company to write an opera especially for radio, The Old Maid and the Thief, the first such commission ever given. His first ballet, Sebastian, followed in 1944, and for this he wrote the scenario as well as the score. After the premiere of his Piano Concerto in 1945, Menotti returned to opera with The Medium, shortly joined by The Telephone, both enjoying international success.

The Consul, Menotti's first full-length work, won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle award as the best musical play of the year in 1954. By far Menotti's best-known work is the Christmas classic Amahl and the Night Visitors, composed for NBC-TV in 1951. This beloved opera celebrated the 50th anniversary of its premiere in 2001, and continues to receive hundreds of performances annually.
Menotti writes the text to all his operas, the original language being English in every case, with the exception of Amelia Goes to the Ball, The Island God, and The Last Savage, which were first set to Italian words. Recent operas include The Singing Child (1993) and Goya (1986), written for Placido Domingo and given its premiere by The Washington Opera. In the summer of 2004 Domingo reprised the role at Vienna's Theater an der Wien.Menotti's most recent vocal works are Jacob's Prayer (1997), a commission from the American Choral Directors Association, Gloria, written as part of a composite Mass celebrating the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize, For the Death of Orpheus, with a premiere by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra led by Robert Shaw in November 1990, and Llama de Amor Viva, premiered in April 1991. A trio for the Verdehr Trio received its world premiere at the Spoleto Festival on Menotti's 85th birthday in July 1996.

In addition to the numerous operatic works, Menotti has enriched the artistic world with ballets, including Errand into the Maze (in the 2005 repertory of the Martha Graham Dance Company), and The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore; Pastorale for Piano and Strings (1934); Poemetti, a suite of piano pieces for children (1937); The Hero (1952), a song on a text by Robert Horan; and Canti della Lontananza, a cycle of seven songs (1967). He also wrote the libretti to Samuel Barber's operas Vanessa and A Hand of Bridge.

1958 saw the opening of Menotti's own festival, the Festival of Two Worlds, in Spoleto, Italy. Devoted to the cultural collaboration of Europe and America in a program embracing all the arts, the Spoleto Festival has gone on to be one of the most popular festivals in Europe. The festival literally became "of two worlds" in 1977 with the founding of Spoleto USA in Charleston, South Carolina, which he led until 1993 when he became Director of the Rome Opera. Well into his 90s he continued to direct opera at Spoleto and elsewhere. His 1996 Spoleto production of Amahl was filmed for commercial release. During the 2005-06 season The Consul will be produced at Teatro Regio in Italy; performances in the 2004-05 season included productions at the Arizona Opera and in Zurich, Switzerland.
In 1984 Menotti was awarded the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement in the arts. He was chosen the 1991 "Musician of the Year" by Musical America, inaugurating worldwide tributes to the composer in honor of his 80th birthday.
His music has been published by G. Schirmer since 1946.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1944 Sebastian 3.50 stars CD

London Symphony Orchestra cond. Jose Serebrier

1945 The Medium 3.50 stars LP
The Medium Comments:


Monica, the daughter of Madame Flora, and Toby, a mute boy living with them, are playing while Madame Flora is away. When she returns, she is furious that they are not ready for the seance she has planned; Monica prevents her from striking Toby. They busily prepare, and when the three guests arrive for the seance, Monica pretends to be the teenage daughter of one and the baby son of another, while Toby works the mechanical devices that control the motion of the lights and the furniture in the room. Suddenly, Madame Flora stops the seance and sends the customers away. She tells Monica she felt a spectral hand clutch her throat during the seance. She suspects Toby at first, but as Monica tries to comfort her Flora hears a voice imitating Monica's performance at the seance.


A few days later, Monica is watching Toby perform a puppet show for her; then she dances for him. Monica realizes he is trying to tell her that he loves her; pretending to be his voice, she says it for him. She runs off as Flora reenters; the medium tries cajole Toby into confessing that he was the one who touched her during the seance, or that he knows something about it. When he does not answer, she begins to whip him, but is interrupted by the doorbell. The three clients from the previous seance enter; Flora gives them their money back and tries to convince them they have been cheated, even showing them the wires and microphones, but they refuse to believe her. She throws them out, and despite Monica's protests, throws Toby out, too. Monica goes to her room, and Flora, frightened by what she has experienced, drinks herself to sleep. Toby returns; Flora awakes, and Toby hides from her; Flora, thinking he is the spirit she felt, shoots him.

Regina Resnik - mezzo soprano
Judith Blegen - soprano

Opera Society of Washington cond. Jorge Mester

1951 Amahl and the Night Visitors 4.00 stars CD

Amahl and the Night Visitors tells a simple tale of a crippled boy and his mother.
They live in poverty among shepherds. 
One night the Three Kings, on their way to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn Christ Child, stop for shelter at the rude hut where Amahl and his mother live.
They are given hospitality and are entertained by the neighboring shepherds. 
The Mother envies the gold and other splendid gifts begin brought to this Child the Kings do not even know. 
In the early dawn she steals some of the gold and is caught. 
When she explains to the Kings that she needs it for her starving child she is forgiven.
Then they tell her about their Child and the new light He will bring into the world and the kingdom He will build. 
The poor widow repents and returns the gold. 
Amahl, in a gesture of innocent generosity, offers his crutch -- his most valued possession -- as a gift to the Child. 
In doing so he is miraculously cured of his lameness, and he is allowed to follow the Kings to Bethlehem to give thanks to the Christ Child.

Nashville Symphony Orchestra cond. Alastair Willes