Gian Carlo Menotti – American Masterpieces: Choral Music

The National Endowment for the ArtsAmerican Masterpieces: Choral Music initiative is designed to celebrate our national musical heritage by highlighting significant American choral composers and their works of the past 250 years.  Stanton’s Sheet Music is proud to present this series highlighting the composers and their works featured in this groundbreaking project.

In America, especially after World War I, the popularity of opera was challenged by both the cinema and the Broadway musical show. All the more striking, then, has been the success of Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007), an Italian-American who has dared to center his career on writing operas, two of which (The Saint of Bleecker Street and The Consul) won the Pulitzer Prize for music among other awards.

Unashamedly conservative in technique, Menotti has always written in a traditional tonal language. His television Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, won him a mass audience and remains today one of the most frequently performed stage works in America.

Despite his concentration on opera, he has also composed a significant body of choral music. The largest has been the cantata The Death of the Bishop of Brindisi. The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore, designated a “madrigal-ballet,” is sung as well as danced. Missa O Pulchritudo is scored for soloists, chorus, and orchestra and was premiered at the Spoleto Festival in Italy, which Menotti founded in 1958.

Menotti showed extraordinary vigor at an age when most people have been long retired. He continued to compose, and to direct opera, well into his 90s. In his later years he became if anything even more prolific in the choral field. For the Death of Orpheus was first performed under the direction of Robert Shaw in 1990, a Gloria was written in 1995 as part of a composite Mass by various composers, and “Jacob’s Prayer” (1997) was commissioned by the American Choral Directors Association.

Selected Works:
Amahl and the Night Visitors
The Death of the Bishop of Brindisi
For the Death of Orpheus
Llama de amor viva
Missa O Pulchritudo
Muero porque no muero (Cantata for St. Teresa of Avila)
The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore

For more distinguished choral repertoire suggestions, please contact us.


Categories: Composers, School Choral, Staff Picks

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