Music: Opera in Small Packages

Contemporary composers rarely crash the culture-pearly gates of the Metropolitan Opera Company. Italian-born Gian-Carlo Menotti has done it twice in the past ten years. It has been an honor unaccompanied by noises of a cash register. Menotti's 1937 Amelia Goes to the Ball and his 1942 The Island God together got only nine Met performances (he was paid about $150 a time). In 1939 he wrote a modest little chamber opera for the radio, The Old Maid and the Thief, which has since been given 100 times and earned far more than his grand operas.

Menotti, whose music is also his living,...

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