- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

ROME — Gian Carlo Menotti, who composed a pair of Pulitzer Prize-winning operas and founded the Spoleto arts festivals in the United States and Italy, died yesterday at a hospital in Monaco, his son said. He was 95.

“He died pretty peacefully and without any pain. He died in my arms,” said Francis Menotti by telephone from Monte Carlo.

The Italian composer won Pulitzers for a pair of the 20th century’s more successful operas: “The Consul,” which premiered in 1950 in Philadelphia, and “The Saint of Bleecker Street,” which opened at New York’s Broadway Theater in 1954. “The Consul” also earned him the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as the best musical play of the year in 1954.

He also wrote the Christmas classic “Amahl and the Night Visitors” for NBC, which was broadcast in 1951 and may have been the first opera written for television. Mr. Menotti also authored the libretto for “Vanessa,” which was composed by Samuel Barber, and revised the libretto for Mr. Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra.” In addition to working together, Mr. Barber and Mr. Menotti shared a house in Westchester, a New York suburb, for many years.

Mr. Menotti’s Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, and Spoleto Festival USA of Charleston, S.C., sought to bring together fresh creative forces in U.S. and European culture. The tradition catapulted young artists into impressive careers. Shirley Verrett sang her first performance of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” in Spoleto in 1962; in 1959, Patrice Chereau began his opera career with a much-praised production of “L’Italiana in Algeri” by Gioacchino Rossini; and Tennessee Williams’ “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” premiered in 1962. From Spoleto’s stages, dancers such as Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp went on to shape the direction of contemporary dance.

Mr. Menotti said he was on the verge of giving up his direction of the cultural festivals several times — in 1990, he said he wanted to quit the South Carolina event because he was being “treated like the clerk.”

He eventually did leave the U.S. festival in October 1993, after a series of bitter disagreements with the festival’s board about financial and artistic control.

Born July 7, 1911, in Cadegliano, Italy, near Lake Maggiore and the Swiss border, he was the sixth child of Alfonso and Ines Menotti.

A boy wonder who began composing songs at age 7 and wrote his first opera at 11, Mr. Menotti was for a time the most decorated and sought-after composer of his generation.

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