4.7.2011 - Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007)
1/5. Donald Macleod introduces the music of Gian Carlo Menotti.
2/5. Menotti's glamorous connections and the many commissions they brought.
3/5. Menotti's creation of an American Christmas tradition.
4/5. Menotti's move to Scotland.
5/5. Why attitudes to Menotti's music have recently mellowed.
To my shock, I noticed last night that Monday's COTW was the first Menotti that has been broadcast on R3 since I started my survey in January. Mind you there are other composers who haven't had a note played either, Atterberg for example.
My father once saw "The Consul" and described it as "terrifying", But, being hitherto unfamiliar to me, Menotti's music sounds mostly like some kind of cross between much of the music produced by French composers between the two world wars - Jacques Ibert being a good example - and Leonard Bernstein. Practically every phrase references another composer's music. I suppose one reason why opinion has "mellowed" towards this composer in recent years is that his music is easy on the ear.
I remember the first time I heard Menotti's Piano Concerto (Earl Wild on Vanguard) in my late-teens I found it utterly cringe-making in its triteness. Yet the extraordinary thing was, once I had overcome my antipathy towards the idiom and started listening to the music, I was struck by how melodically inventive and seductive it really was. This piece, along with his chamber opera The Medium, is one of my secret guilty pleasures. Over three decades later, I still adore every note, but I would still be far too embarrased to inflict it on anyone else!
(I had exactly the same experience with Leonard Bernstein's Mass)
Inventive and seductive sums up Menotti's music well. It is well written music but just seems to lack that certain extra something IMO, certainly not up to the standards of his long term partner Barber.
That sums up very well what I thought when I recently saw Menotti's The Last Savage at Santa Fe Opera, which evidently is the first full-scale production to be directed by anyone besides Menotti himself, in this case Ned Canty. TLS definitely got a fun, campy staging where half the audience was metaphorically rolling in the aisles at the humor of the production. Yet the music itself, for me, didn't have a lot going for it. It certainly sat well on the voices and none of the singers were strained beyond belief, as is often the case with modern opera (certainly the case for the lead tenor in Lewis Spratlan's Life Is A Dream last year). Menotti's music is accessible, pleasant, but ultimately forgettable for me in this opera. But the general director at Santa Fe Opera really wanted to honor Menotti in GCM's centenary year, and I'm certainly grateful for the chance to have seen the opera.
Originally Posted by Suffolkcoastal