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Wilfrid Mellers in Music in a New Found Land  writes 'Though the pieces live, at all, because they are "good theatre", they are theatrical in both the positive sense (given the premises, the dramatic argument is logical and gripping) and also in the negative sense (the premises are contrived). The music, almost consistently, is part of the contrivance. It "effectively" brings Puccini brought up to date, while depriving him of the lyrical panache and harmonic punch that justified his theatricality ...' (Polite amusement from Menotti.)

Olin Downes, however, states '... Whether Mr Menotti is utilizing ideas of his own, or idioms which he has absorbed from Puccini, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov and other composers, we have here the quality of opera. It is dramatic music, emphatic in actions as well as feeling, and in essence song, which is what opera must be. No other American composer has shown the inborn talent that Mr Menotti, Italian by descent, unquestionably possesses for the lyric theatre.' Who is more correct?

'Now, first of all there are two things that are not true in what Mr Downes says. I am not an American composer, I am an Italian! I was an American for one day, because when they gave me the Kennedy honours - whatever they call it - which is only for Americans, I had to write to the White House to say I could not receive it. So Reagan wrote me to say he still wanted me to receive it, and would I accept to be American for one day - you know, just to receive my prize! Second thing: I don't think my music has much to do with Puccini.' Harmonically, in the orchestra, it's totally different. 'Harmonic, yes, but it has more to do with Schubert in the simplicity of the melodies, Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky in dramatic qualities. Those three.'

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Copyright © 29 August 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK





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