Thursday, February 12, 2015

Maazels: Outstanding Virginians

Lorin Maazel, the conductor and Castleton Festival founder who died last July, and his widow and festival co-founder, Dietlinde Turban Maazel, are recipients of this year’s Outstanding Virginian award, given by the Virginia General Assembly.

Mrs. Maazel accepted the award on Feb. 10 in presentations on the floors of the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate, followed by a reception at the Governor’s Mansion.

The Maazels were recognized for establishing the Castleton Festival at Castleton Farms, their estate in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northwestern Virginia.

Lorin and Dietlinde Maazel “have brought many of the finest musicians in the world to Virginia for the enjoyment of its citizens, and have created a music festival in Virginia that trains thousands of young people in a variety of musical disciplines,” state Sen. Mark Obenshain said in making the Senate presentation. Gov. Terry McAuliffe lauded the couple’s “significant contribution to the cultural fabric of Virginia.” 

When the Maazels were approached about the award, “we suggested that this year would be appropriate, because it would be Lorin’s 85th year,” Mrs. Maazel said in an interview earlier this week. “As it turned out, this is the first time the award has given to someone posthumously.”

Founded in 2009 after Lorin Maazel finished his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic, the Castleton Festival stages opera, orchestral, chamber and other performances each summer. It draws more than 250 young professional singers, instrumentalists and practitioners of theatrical stagecrafts to work with established artists.

It has become one of Virginia’s prime summer cultural events. The festival is also the largest private employer in rural Rappahannock County.

Lorin Maazel, who in a career of more than 70 years had performed with most of the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies, started the Castleton Festival as a way of “giving back” to his profession. As well as being its artistic leader, he was the festival’s chief teacher, involved himself deeply in its management and financed much of it himself.

When he died in the middle of last year’s festival, “we had to regroup completely – start, really, from scratch,” Dietlinde Maazel said. The festival board “approached me to step up as executive and artistic director,” she said. “There were necessarily personnel changes in the administration and board, and the board stepped up financial support rapidly” to make up for the loss of her husband’s income.

Rafael Payare, a former Castleton conducting fellow and winner of the 2012 Malko Conducting Competition, was named the festival’s principal conductor. He will be joined in the 2015 festival by Fabio Luisi, principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, and Salvatore Percacciolo, who as part of Castleton’s 2014 conductors’ seminar program took over music direction of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” when Lorin Maazel’s declining health forced him to step aside.

Early last year, Maazel and Wynton Marsalis, the jazz trumpeter, composer and bandleader, agreed to add a jazz component to Castleton’s training and performance programs. Marsalis will perform this summer with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and join seven members of the orchestra in working with 42 participants selected by audition from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Duke Ellington program for jazz musicians at secondary school level (grades 9-12).

“Wynton had been looking for a proper summer home for the program,” Mrs. Maazel said. “Lots of festivals, understandably, were sort of throwing themselves at him; but he wanted something that would be more than a sidelight to a festival’s regular offerings. What he saw at Castleton was what he had been looking for.”

In her new leading role, Dietlinde Maazel will be drawing on her various professional experiences. Although she is most widely known as a stage and film actress, “I also trained as a violinist,” she noted. “And I teach a Lieder [art-song] program at Rutgers University.” All those art forms will figure in Castleton’s programming.

“We also will shifting our focus slightly from [being] a producing entity and to being more an education and [professional] training program,” she said.

The 2015 Castleton Festival, running from July 2 to Aug. 2, will feature the premiere of Derrick Wang’s “Scalia/Ginsburg,” a comic one-act on the opera-loving Supreme Court justices, paired with Ravel’s one-act comedy “L’heure espagnole” (“The Spanish Hour”), both directed by Maria Tucci, as well as productions of Gounod’s opera “Romeo et Juliette” and Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town,” the latter directed by Mrs. Maazel.

Payare and Luigi will conduct two orchestra concerts, and the jazz program participants will present four concerts in addition to the Marsalis-Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performance.

For a complete Castleton 2015 schedule, visit the festival’s website: