Moving to the US in his teens, Gian Carlo Menotti enrolled at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute where fellow students included Bernstein and Barber, who would become Menotti’s life partner and collaborator. Amelia Goes to the Ball (1937) proved an immediate success at the Metropolitan Opera, but he really consolidated his position with The Medium. This short opera has a puzzling if not precious plot about a séance that goes wrong, The Telephone (a ménàge à trois around a troubled couple), was originally commissioned to pad out an evening’s listening. They showed the composer to be a conservative who wrote in a lyrical style reminiscent of Puccini (Boulez wickedly referred to Menotti as the “Puccini of the poor”).
Although his work is not as acclaimed as it was, say, 60 years ago, it remains attractive and approachable to the dilettante. This effective new set adds to those by the late Richard Hickox in presenting Menotti’s work today. Recorded in Modena last year, singers opt for the composer’s original English language libretti. Conductor Flavio Emilio Scogna delivers a no-nonsense pair of performances, which are youthfully cast with enthusiastic young singers taken from Raina Kabaivanska’s local 2018 masterclass and a couple of American singers who also sang in praised semi-staged productions. Diction is generally good, though with an international cast involved, provision of a libretto would aid in clarity at times.
Composition: The Medium, The Telephone
Performer: Orchestra Filarmonica Italiana/Flavio Emilio Scogna
Catalogue Number: BRILLIANT 95361BR