Gian Carlo Menotti was born in Italy in 1911 during the Modern Period. He was the sixth of eight children. His father was a businessman who had a coffee business and his mother was a musician. She began teaching Menotti when he was very young and by the time he was ten he had written the libretto (story and words) for his first opera. By the time he was twelve he started studying in the Milan Conservatory of Music and had written his second opera.
When Menotti was sixteen years old his father died. His mother decided to move to the United States and he started studying music at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Even though Menotti’s mother returned to Italy he stayed in America and became a citizen.
While he was studying at the Curtis Institute he met many famous musicians like Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber. Menotti and Barber began working together and helped each other write many operas.
During his lifetime Menotti composed 25 operas, almost all in English. He wrote his own librettos (words to the opera) and usually directed the operas as well.
Menotti’s most popular opera is “Amahl and the Night Visitors”. It is the story of a poor boy who can’t walk and is visited by three kings on their way to see the Baby Jesus on the night he is born. It takes place at Christmas and is performed a lot at this time of year. Amahl was the first opera performed on television and has been popular ever since.
Menotti also started a music festival called “The Festival of Two Worlds” It takes place both in Italy and the United States for three weeks. Its purpose is to bring opera to many people and to teach them about it.
Menotti had houses all over the world and dedicated his life to bringing opera to as many people as he could. He especially loved children and tried to teach them to love opera. Menotti died in 2007, he was 96 years old.