Composer, Librettist, Theatre and Festival Director. Probably 20th Century America's most successful creator of opera. His eclectic but dramatically effective style united contemporary drama with traditional Italian operatic form. Menotti's most famous work is the short Christmas opera "Amahl and the Night Visitors" (1951). He won Pulitzer Prizes in music for "The Consul" (1950) and "The Saint of Bleecker Street" (1954), and wrote the libretto for Samuel Barber's opera "Vanessa" (1958). Born in Cadigliano, Italy, Menotti received early music instruction from his mother and completed his first opera at age 10. After studying at the Milan Conservatory, he came to the United States in 1928 and enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. There he met fellow student Samuel Barber, who later became his lifelong companion. Menotti's first mature opera, "Amelia Goes to the Ball" (1937), brought him immediate fame. He composed the first opera for radio broadcast, "The Old Maid and the Thief" (1939), and brought opera to Broadway with two one-act hits, "The Medium" (1946) and "The Telephone" (1947). He pioneered again with "Amahl and the Night Visitors", the first such music drama commissioned for television. His 22 other operas include "The Island God" (1942), "The Unicorn" (1955), "Maria Golovin" (1958), "Labyrinth" (1963), "Martin's Lie" (1964), "Tamu-Tamu" (1973), and "Goya" (1986). He wrote his own texts for these and usually directed the premiere performances. In 1958 Menotti founded the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, and launched the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, which he headed from 1977 to 1993. He was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor in 1984. Although he considered himself an Italian-American and wrote nearly all his works in English, Menotti never renounced his Italian citizenship. After Barber's death in 1981 he divided his time between the US and Europe. He died in Monte Carlo, Monaco, at 95. Menotti's creative reputation has seriously declined over the years. Some critics characterize his music as functional rather than inspired, saying that it does not hold up well outside a theatrical setting. But he came closer than any composer before him to making home-grown opera a popular medium in the United States.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards