February, 6 2023
Each week, discover one of the members of the Network of Houses and Museums of European Musicians. These places link the past, present and future, they honor a tangible and intangible heritage and fulfill an essential cultural purpose in Europe. This week, head to Spoleto (Italy) to discover the Monini Foundation and the Menotti House (Casa Menotti) dedicated to the great Italian composer and librettist.
Gian Carlo Menotti was born in Cadegliano, in the Varese province (1911-2007). At the age of seven he began to compose his first songs, under the supervision of his mother. Four years later, he composed his first piece of opera (libretto and music), an opera for puppets entitled "La mort de Pierrot". After his father's death in 1928, Menotti and his mother moved to the United States. The young Gian Carlo joined the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. There he completes his musical studies, deepening his role as a composer under the guidance of Rosario Scalero. The institute also had Leonard Bernstein and, above all, Samuel Barber as students, whom Gian Carlo Menotti would later meet again in the course of his impressive career. He wrote the librettos for two of Barber's operas, the best known of which was Vanessa (Pulitzer Prize in 1958).
His first major work was the comic opera "Amelia al Ballo". This masterful work made its debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1937. It was so successful that the NBC commissioned Menotti to write a work for broadcast: "The Old Maid and the Thief". In 1944, he wrote both the script and the music for "Sebastian", his first ballet. He organised a piano concert in 1945, then returned to opera with "The Medium" (1945), followed by "The Telephone" (1947): both were prestigious international successes.
"The Consul" (1950) won Gian Carlo Menotti his first Pulitzer Prize for the greatest musical work of the year, as well as a Time magazine cover and the New York Drama Circle Critics' Award. In 1951, the children's opera "Amahl and the Night Visitors", written especially for CBS, further consolidated his recent success and became an international Christmas classic. The "Saint of Bleecker Street", premiered in 1954 at the Broadway Theater in New York, earned Menotti his second Pulitzer Prize for Music.
22 years after his arrival in the United States, Gian Carlo Menotti on the front page of the prestigious Time magazine on 1 May 1950 (© Time Magazine)
At the end of the 1950s, Menotti dedicated his time to the creation of the prestigious "Festival dei Due Mondi" (Festival of the Two Worlds) in Spoleto (1958), of which he was the undisputed conductor from the start. He is also one of the champions of cultural collaboration between Europe and America. Menotti is the father of the Spoleto Festival. A festival that embraces all the arts and has become one of the most important European cultural events. The festival literally became "The Two Worlds" in 1977 when Gian Carlo Menotti brought the event to the United States for 17 years. Since 1986, the festival has also held three editions in Melbourne, Australia.
Among the last works of this great musician are "L'enfant qui chante" (1993) and "Goya" (1986). Both works were written for Placido Domingo. Later works include "Trio for piano, violin and clarinet" (1997) and "Jacob's Prayer", a cantata for choir and orchestra commissioned by the American Choral Directors Association and performed in San Diego (California) in 1997. Finally, "Gloria", written for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, "For the Death of Orpheus" (1990) and "Llama de Amor Viva" (1991).
Menotti – Goya with Placido Domingo, Victoria Vergara, Karen Hoffstadt, Louis Otey, Howard Bender, Stephen Dupont
In 1984 Menotti received the Kennedy Center Honor Award in recognition of his high artistic contribution. From 1992 to 1994 he was artistic director of the Rome Opera. The most performed opera composer of the 1950s and 1960s, who undoubtedly left his mark on the history of music, died at the age of 95 on 1 February 2007 in Monaco.
"The documentation center of the Festival of the Two Worlds in Spoleto, housed in the Casa Menotti, is a sign of continuity between the past and the present, and gives form and context to the audio, video and photographic material of the Festival's editions from 1958, the year of its foundation, to the present day. This material has been collected over the years by the Municipality of Spoleto, the Festival dei Due Mondi Foundation and the Monini Foundation, which has digitised it and made it accessible. The Monini Foundation was created with the intention of making Casa Menotti a box of memories", explains Maria Flora Monini, President of the Monini Foundation.
The Menotti House in Spoleto houses a museum dedicated to the composer and the famous festival he created, as well as a research center
The documentation center at the Menotti House is open all year round and is "suitable for various degrees of in-depth research". Spaces are dedicated to the history of the famous international festival, to the figure of Gian Carlo Menotti and to his connections. An interactive multimedia installation presents the main themes linked to the Festival of the Two Worlds and its founder, Gian Carlo Menotti. Visitors can therefore discover contents and documentary material of great historical, cultural and artistic value. There is also an interactive itinerary between the different floors of the house dedicated to the great composer. Thanks to the use of high-tech interactive multimedia scenography, it is possible to "relive the atmosphere of the Festival, its music, its dance, its theatre, its scenarios, its international connections, its famous faces, its timeless images".
More information on the official website of Monini Foundation