Menotti's most popular opera, "Amahl and the Night Visitors" -- about a disabled boy visited by the Three Kings on their way to Bethlehem -- was a Christmas staple on TV for many years. It was commissioned by NBC.
Menotti's work was widely performed and he won two Pulitzer prizes, but many critics thought him musically unadventurous, The New York Times said. Other composers were less kind, with Igor Stravinsky calling his music "mid-Mascagni" -- referring to the composer of "Cavalleria Rusticana" -- and Luigi Nono refusing to have his music performed on the same program with Menotti's.
Some critics, however, praised Menotti for writing music that was accessible to the general public.
Menotti, who composed his first opera at 11, eventually produced 25 operas. He wrote his own librettos and usually handled his own staging.
While he spent much of his professional life in the United States and acquired a manor house in Scotland, Menotti never gave up his Italian citizenship.
Menotti had a longtime professional and personal relationship with the U.S. composer Samuel Barber. He is survived by his adopted son, Francis.