The son of an amateur musician, Menotti
had already composed two operas at the time of his admission to the Milan Conservatory at age 13. There he developed a close friendship with fellow student Samuel Barber
, with whom he spent two summers in Europe attending operas. He received his diploma with honors from the Curtis Institute in Vienna in 1933 and began work on Amelia al Ballo, which was soon accepted by the Metropolitan Opera in New York for the 1936 season, where it was performed in English as Amelia Goes to the Ball. Living in the USA throughout WWII, he continued to hone his skills as a librettist and composer. In 1946 he was commissioned by the Alice M. Ditson Fund. This commission produced the opera The Medium, a tragedy in two acts. This opera had a successful run of 211 performances on Broadway, and in 1951, Menotti
directed a film version of The Medium. His varied skills as composer, librettist and director led to a contract to write film scripts for Metro Goldwyn-Mayer. His scripts were never filmed, but one script became the basis for his first full-length opera, The Consul, possibly his greatest work. This opera received the Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critics Award. It has been translated into 12 languages and performed in over 20 countries. Another operatic success for Menotti
was his Amahl and the Night Visitors, the first opera written for television, commissioned by NBC. The first performance was on Christmas Eve 1951 and is broadcast annually. Menotti
used new musical techniques of his time for expressive purposes but strove to make his works accessible to the untrained ear. He uses tonal melodies and harmonies that allow the music to serve the theatrical moment and made opera for popular consumption.