Spoleto Music Festival

It’s all about concerts, opera, dance, drama, visual arts, cinema and more!

The Festival dei Due Mondi or the Festival of the Two Worlds is an annual summer music and opera festival. It is held in Spoleto each June to early July in Italy since 1958 by its founding composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The festival features a wide range of concerts, opera, drama, dance, discussions on science and visual arts. Menotti learnt music from his mother. He composed his opera at the age of 10. Francis Menotti became the artistic director in 1999. The festival features works of great composers, musicians, singers, writers, painters, actors, and sculptors from across the world.

The Founder - Gian Carlo Menotti

Born in the year 1911 in Cadegliano, Gian Carlo Menotti is considered as one of the greatest living composers in the world. He completed his studies under Rosario Scalero in Milan at the Verdi Conservatory and the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia. His works include ‘Amelia Goes to the Ball’ that premiered in 1937 at the Metropolitan, New York, followed by ‘The Old Maid and the Thief’, ‘The Medium’ in 1945, and ‘The Telephone’ in1947. He won the cover of Time magazine and the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for the best musical opera for ‘The Consul.’ The Amahl and the Night Visitor were written by him in the year 1951. His work ‘The Saint of Bleecker Street’ was premiered at the Broadway Theater in New York in 1954 and won him the Pulitzer prize for the second time. For some time he put aside his composing crazes and began working on making the Spoleto Festival in 1958. Since the festivals introduction, he had been the undisputed leader and host. As a talented director, Gian Carlo Menotti led many operas at the Spoleto Festival gaining huge applause from both the critics and the audiences. To specify a few are La Bohème, Tristan und Isolde, Carmen, Palléas et Melisande, Parsifal, Don Giovanni, I Maestri Cantori, The Saint of Bleecker Street, Le Nozze di Figaro, The Consul, Goya and Amahl and the Night Visitors. In the year 1977, the Spoleto festival was introduced in the U.S. and remained the director for the same for 17 years. Then from 1986, three editions of the festival were conducted in Melbourne, Australia. He then dedicated his time for composing music for the Trio violin, piano and the clarinet. He also composed for Jacob’s Prayer that was a cantata for orchestra and choir which was presented in San Diego, California in 1997. For over two years he was more famous as the Artistic Director of the Roman Opera.

Francis Menotti

Francis Menotti was born in 1938 in Philadephia. He learned acting under Lee Strasberg in New York at the Chicago Goodman Theater. In his early acting career, he participated in the American Shakespeare Festival. Many roles were brought to life by him and is most famous for his role as Toby in ‘The Medium’ by Gian Carlo Menotti. He was also the narrator in Beethoven’s Egmont that was performed at the Tully Hall, New York and in the Schoenberg’s Ode to Napoleon at the festival at Charleston. He was a designer for costumes for ‘The Consul’ that was to be at the Teatro La, Florence. Francis Menotti was soon able to exhibit his special talent in discovering new and rare gifts. He had an exceptional skill in judging talents in artistic arena. The organization benefited for over 52 festivals that were held in the U.S, Australia and Italy. The Spoleto festival itself was revived with many artistic inclusions under Francis Menotti.

The Spoleto Festival in U.S.A. is an American version of the Italian festival. It was instituted by Menotti since 1977 and has been held in Charleston. Though Menotti is not with the American festival since 1993, the festival continues to be still active under its French conductor and director, Emmanuel Villaume, since 2000.

The Place Spoleto

Spoleto, an ancient town is situated on the foothills of the Apennines. It is about 126 km north of Rome. The population according to the 2003 census was about 38,000. The small town doing relatively slow business be it real estate services or other goods. There were only two indoor theaters and one Roman Theater with lots of space around. Menotti chose this town as the venue for the arts festival. It is close to Rome and had good connections via rail.

The Spoleto festival has since developed into a very important cultural expression of Italy. The festival is scheduled for three weeks with music, dance performances and theater. The festival thus became a referral point for every kind of art or modern sculpture. The works left behind by Alexander Calder are testimonial to this. Loss of funds, birth of too many similar festivals in Italy etc has contributed to the low prominence of the Spoleto Festival, but it still seems to be one of the greatest cultural get together of the country.

The name ‘Two Worlds’ is because it is conducted in concurrence with its "twin." Charleston in South Carolina hosts this festival every May/June. After certain uninteresting events, the Spoleto, U.S.A festival is independent of the Menotti family. For quite some time, there was also a third festival held parallel to this. It was in Australia.

Spoleto 1958

The first festival of its kind was held in 1958 and it upheld the spirit, concept and criteria giving way to the commencement of the art Festival. The first edition of the festival saw the performance of some of the renowned conductors, directors, choreographers, set directors, musicians and costume designers. New and fresh talents like Thomas Schippers saw it to the stage in the same year.

The opening of the festival was with Macbeth conducted by Schippers and directed by Luchino Visconti. Other performances included: Il Giuoco del barone by Velentino Bucchi with scenes, the costumes and direction was by Franco Zeffirelli; Lee Holby's The Scarf; Lo frate 'nnammorato by Giambattista Pergolesi (directed by Zeffirelli); Il Maestro di cappella by Domenico Cimarosa and many other concerts featuring proficient conductors. The Ballet of USA also was performed for the first time here.

Highlights of Spoleto 2006

The festival of 2006 had a grand opening concert by The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. This was followed by eleven other concerts by famous conductors. The Opera section had the Ercole su'l Termodonte by Antonio Vivaldi.


Dance Gala by Gregor Alexander Hatala other great Primi Ballerini of international fame and The Creative Outlet Company, and a string of dances choreographed by Jamel Gaines.


Bad Faith & The Box Office by Colin Poole
History comes to life.
Il Frutto Amaro
I grandi processi curated by Massimo Martinelli
The Hospital directed, designed and choreographed by Jo Stromgren Kompani
Marionette Colla
Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh
La Didone by Gian Francesco Busenello
La Casa d'Argilla by Lisa Ferlazzo Natoli

Visual Arts featuring
Umberto Mastroianni
Demetrios Psillos
Frutto Probito


This section was dedicated to Citto Maselli and Paris Hilton and shows by the International Cinema Schools

Spoleto Science

The discussion was based on ‘The world saved by technology.’ Let the tradition of dance, music and all forms of art continue to entertain humanity !