Sunday, July 7, 2013

Happy Birthday, Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007)

Gian Carlo Menotti
For American Independence Day, we celebrated the great composers produced by that country. One composer who is often mentioned as American is Gian Carlo Menotti, who was born in Italy and never renounced his Italian citizenship. He enrolled at the Milan Conservatory at age 11 and when he moved to the U.S., enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music at age 17.

Although he wrote some of the most famous and frequently performed works in the opera repertory, he penned few memorable arias for baritones. Perhaps the best known is "When the air sings to summer" from The Old Maid and the Thief. The piece is rarely performed by major opera companies and is generally seen at conservatories or universities. The aria is occasionally heard as an audition piece.

Brian Rix in a student performance at the Boston Conservatory:

The only other baritone pieces of any note are "Oh, woman, you may keep the gold" from his holiday classic Amahl and the Night Visitors and the Police Agent's aria from The Consul. His most memorable arias were written for sopranos and many are regularly heard on concert programs, including, "Vola intanto l'ora insonne' from Amelia al ballo, "To this we've come" from The Consul, Monica's Waltz from The Medium, and "Steal me, sweet thief" from The Old Maid and the Thief.

Menotti wrote two libretti for his life partner and fellow composer Samuel Barber, Vanessa and A Hand of Bridge, as well as revising the libretto for his Antony and Cleopatra.

In 1958,  Menotti founded the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. It is devoted to the cultural collaboration of Europe and America and programs a wide variety art forms, including ballet, jazz, choral, folk and opera.  In 1977, he created a sister festival in Charleston, South Carolina, which he led until 1993 when he became director of the Rome Opera.

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.

1 comment:

  1. "Amelia al ballo" has a lovely baritone aria too (when the husband reads the lover's letter). Never heard it sung as a concert piece, though.