Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007)



Donald Macleod introduces the music of Gian Carlo Menotti.

Donald Macleod introduces the music of Gian Carlo Menotti - a composer who stood apart from his age, creating delightful operas when the genre had pretty much been pronounced dead.

Right from his childhood puppet shows, Menotti's musical talents were hard-wired to the theatre.

But the huge success in America of Menotti's Amelia Goes to the Ball had one slight cloud: his partner, Samuel Barber, composer of the now much more famous Adagio for Strings, felt that their relationship might be threatened by Menotti's sudden acclaim.


Donald Macleod on Menotti's glamorous connections and the many commissions they brought.

Classically tall, dark and handsome, and a man with a personal magnetism of such intensity, he could, it was often said, "charm the birds off the trees".

It's no surprise that after an early operatic success, America fell in love with Gian Carlo Menotti, and he quickly made friends in high places.

Donald Macleod explores Menotti's glamorous connections and the plentiful commissions they brought him.


Donald Macleod explores Menotti's creation of an American Christmas tradition.

Donald Macleod explores Amahl and the Night Visitors, Menotti's creation of an American Christmas tradition that introduced a whole generation to the joy of opera.

The composer finished only days before the broadcast from Studio 8-H of New York's Radio City Music Hall, on Christmas Eve 1951, when the first opera written expressly for television went live on the air.

It became one of the most frequently performed pieces on the American stage, clocking up over 2,000 performances in the late 1960s alone.


Donald Macleod focuses on Menotti's move to Scotland.

A major transatlantic move for Menotti to Scotland's most expensive house.

Following the break-up of the composer's thirty year relationship with Samuel Barber, Menotti opted for solitude and a total change of scene, moving from upstate New York to East Lothian where he bought Yester House, a huge, imposing Palladian mansion he fell in love with at the foot of the Lammermiur Hills.

He said he went to Scotland because he loved the country and he loved silence: "In my country silence is too expensive.

I love the cold".

The locals in a nearby village were immediately intrigued, awarding him the nickname 'Mr McNaughty'.

With Donald Macleod.

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Donald Macleod explores why attitudes to Menotti's music have recently mellowed.

Donald Macleod explores why previously disparaging attitudes to Menotti's music have recently mellowed.

His highly popular works were derided by highbrow critics as naïve and sentimental, yet Menotti never deviated from following his own path, insisting that one of the primary ingredients of good opera was the ability to bring tears to an audience's eyes.

As his biographer John Gruen pointed out: "In later years even his greatest detractors would credit him with a flawless technique".