After the death of his father, Menotti came, with his mother, to the United States and enrolled in Philadelphia's Curtis School of Music. It was here that he wrote his first mature opera, Amelia al Ballo (Amelia Goes to the Ball), to his own Italian text. This, along with The Island God and The Last Savage were the only operas he wrote in Italian, (the rest being in English) though all were set to his own text.
He also wrote the libretti to two Samuel Barber operas; Vanessa and A Hand of Bridge. As well as revising the latter for Antony and Cleopatra. Amelia was so successful that NBC commissioned an opera for radio; The Old Maid and the Thief was the first such work ever written. Following this, he wrote a ballet, Sebastian (1944), and a piano concerto (1945) before returning to opera with The Medium and The Telephone.
His first full-length opera, The Consul, was premiered in 1950; it won both the Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Drama Circle Critics' Award for Musical Play of the Year (the latter in 1954). In 1951, Menotti wrote his beloved Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors for NBC-TV. In 1958, he founded the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy; he founded its companion festival, in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1977.
He left Spoleto USA in 1993 to take the helm of the Rome Opera. In 1984 Menotti was awarded the Kennedy Center Honor for achievement in the arts, and in 1991 he was chosen Musical America's "Musician of the Year." In addition to composing operas to his own texts, on his own chosen subject matter, Menotti directs most productions of his work.
Menotti has written several ballets, and numerous choral works as well. He has also written a violin concerto, and a stage play (The Leper). It is in the field of opera, however, that he has made his most notable contributions to American cultural life. His operas include: