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Last Updated: Friday, 2 February 2007, 16:46 GMT
Obituary: Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti: Operatic composer and librettist
The dramatic operas of the Italian-born American composer, Gian Carlo Menotti, were enjoyed by thousands of television viewers who never went near an opera house.

Menotti was perhaps not a composer of the first rank, but he made effective use of music as an ingredient of drama; he wrote his own librettos, and found most of his subject matter in contemporary life.

Born at Cadegliano, in Lombardy in July 1911, Menotti studied as a boy at the Milan Conservatory, where he learned to play the piano and studied composition.

He went to the US at the age of 17, and completed his musical education at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

It was there that he met the American composer, Samuel Barber, who was to become his closest friend.

International celebrity

He completed his first opera, Amelia Goes to the Ball, in 1933, and five years later it became a successful production at the Metropolitan in New York.

It was also performed in Italy, though not at any of the bigger opera houses - this was said to have been because of Menotti's refusal of an offer of honorary membership of the Fascist Party.

He became an international celebrity during the decade immediately after the World War II on the strength of operas such as The Medium, The Consul, and The Saint of Bleeker Street.

Menotti with his friend, the composer Samuel Barber
Menotti (left) with his friend, the composer Samuel Barber
His most famous work was perhaps Amahl and the Night Visitors, a parable about a young disabled boy and the biblical three kings.

Written specifically for television, it became a staple of the festive season on both sides of the Atlantic.

The theme of The Consul, considered by some to be his most important work, was the nightmarish ritual of modern bureaucracy, and included arias in which stateless people made impassioned pleas for visas.

Menotti had a large musical output; besides operas he was responsible for piano and violin concertos and an oratorio.

In 1958 he founded, and for the next nine years directed, the Festival of Two Worlds at Spoleto, in central Italy.

Settled in Scotland

As its name implied, the festival sought to unite the cultures of the Old and New Worlds, and Menotti always tried to introduce some of the latest trends in American art and to give new life to established European works by infusing them with transatlantic blood.

In 1977 the Festival of Two Worlds became a geographical reality with the first season of Spoleto USA, in Charleston, South Carolina.

But, years later, he said the Charleston Festival had been a mistake: "I used it as an excuse to work less. Now I regret it bitterly."

And after falling out with the board of directors in 1993, partly over a controversial art exhibit, he severed all ties with the US venture.

Menotti at an opera rehearsal
Menotti enjoyed a hands-on approach to his productions

In the Sixties, Menotti bought a home in Scotland, Yester House, in the Lammermuir Hills of East Lothian, where he was to live for the rest of his life.

There he kept several unfinished scores, but some he did complete. In 1981 he attended the world premiere of his work, Moans, Groans, Cries, Sighs, at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.

In 1986, the Washington Opera premiered his opera, Goya, starring Placido Domingo, but it was savaged by the critics.

In January 2001, Menotti directed a revival of The Consul at the Kennedy Centre in Washington.

Gian Carlo Menotti's lyrical music might not have been at the cutting edge of music but his engaging works won him an army of fans around the world.




SEE ALSO
Composer Gian Carlo Menotti dies
02 Feb 07 |  Entertainment
Pavarotti joins Menotti celebration
09 Jul 01 |  Entertainment

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