Gian-Carlo Menotti this week. One of the major forces in American classical Music during the 1950s, Menotti’s career was assured when his one-act opera, Amahl and The Night Visitors, was commissioned by NBC-TV and became a staple in the diet of just about every American home over the Christmas holidays from 1951 on. Because television was new, and because television was also pledged to bringing Arts and Culture to a mass audience, the commission and the popularity were double blessings for the young composer, who was just beginning a long and celebrated career. In 1950 he received the Pulitzer prize for another opera, The Consul and again in 1955 for another opera The Saint of Bleeker Street.
Italian by birth, Menotti migrated to the U.S. in the 1920s and studied at the Curtis Institute where he met and worked with fellow students Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber.
The West Coast premier of his first orchestral work, The Apocalypse was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under its then-Music Director Alfred Wallenstein. The work was written in 1951.
Unlike many of the composers I’ve been featuring on this Weekend Gramophone feature, Gian-Carlo Menotti is still very popular, with some 150 recordings of his works still in the catalog. Although his work isn’t performed in concert as much as it used to, his work is still very popular and his operas are considered milestones in American classical music.
Menotti died in 2007 at the age of 95, leaving a lengthy legacy as one of America’s finest composers of the 20th century.