Gian Carlo Menotti (July 7, 1911 – February 1, 2007) was an Italian-American composer and librettist. Although he often referred to himself as an American composer, he kept his Italian citizenship. He wrote the classic Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors among about two dozen other operas intended to appeal to popular taste. He won the Pulitzer Prize for two of them, The Consul (1950) and The Saint of Bleecker Street (1955). He founded the noted Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) in 1958 and its American counterpart, Spoleto Festival USA, in 1977. In 1986 he commenced a Melbourne Spoleto Festival in Australia, but he withdrew after three years.
Born in Cadegliano-Viconago, Italy, near Lake Maggiore and the Swiss border, Menotti was the sixth of eight children of Alfonso and Ines Menotti, his father being a coffee merchant. Menotti began writing songs when he was seven years old, and at eleven wrote both the libretto and music for his first opera, The Death of Pierrot. He began his formal musical training at Milan's Verdi Conservatory in 1923.
After the death of her husband, Ines Menotti went to Colombia in a futile attempt to salvage the family's coffee business. She took Gian Carlo with her, and in 1928 she enrolled him at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, but she returned to Italy. Armed with a letter of introduction from Arturo Toscanini's wife, he studied composition at Curtis under Rosario Scalero. Fellow students at Curtis included Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber. The latter became Menotti's partner in life and in work, with Menotti crafting the libretto for Barber's most famous opera, Vanessa, which premiered in 1958, at the Metropolitan Opera. As a student, Menotti spent much of his time with the Samuel Barber family in West Chester, Pennsylvania. After graduation, the two men bought a house together in Mount Kisco, New York which they shared for over forty years and named "Capricorn". It was at Curtis that Menotti wrote his first mature opera, Amelia al Ballo (Amelia Goes to the Ball), to his own Italian text. The Island God (which he suppressed, though its libretto was printed by the Metropolitan Opera and can be found in many libraries) and The Last Savage were the only other operas he wrote in Italian, the rest being in English. Like Wagner, he wrote the libretti of all his operas. His most successful works were composed in the 1940s and 1950s. Menotti also taught at the Curtis Institute of Music.