Menotti, Gian-Carlo

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Menotti, Gian-Carlo

Gian-Carlo Menotti (jän´-kär´lō mānôt´tē), 1911–2007, Italian composer. Menotti was taught music by his mother and composed his first opera at 10. He studied at the Verdi Conservatory, Milan, and the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, where he later taught. Much of his life was spent in the United States. Enormously successful in the mid-20th cent. as a composer of operas, he wrote his own librettos—all in English except Amelia al Ballo (1937; tr. Amelia Goes to the Ball)—and usually directed his own productions. In 1946 his melodrama The Medium had unprecedented success with Broadway audiences.

Menotti's major works include The Old Maid and the Thief (1939) and Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951), the former written for radio broadcast, the latter for television; The Telephone (1947); The Consul (1950); The Saint of Bleecker Street (1954; Pulitzer Prize); Maria Golovin (1958); Labyrinth (1963), a short opera; Martin's Lie (1964); and Tamu-Tamu (1973). His 25 operas are celebrated for their powerful dramatic impact, use of language, and polytonality, although they are also frequently criticized for their sentimentality and stylistic conservatism. He also wrote numerous pieces of choral, instrumental, and chamber music.

Menotti established the Festival of Two Worlds at Spoleto, Italy, in 1958 and directed it for about 40 years. In 1977 he initiated the Spoleto Festival U.S.A., in Charleston, S.C., heading that festival until 1993. That year he was appointed artistic director of the Rome Opera, but after disputes with the opera leadership he was dismissed in 1994.

See biography by J. Gruen (1978) and D. L. Hixon, Gian Carlo Menotti: A Bio-Bibliography (2000); study by M. I. Casmus (1962); L. Grieb, ed., The Operas of Gian Carlo Menotti, 1937–1972: A Selective Bibliography (1974); K. Wlaschin, Gian Carlo Menotti on Screen: Opera, Dance, and Choral Works on Film, Television, and Video (1999).

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