Culpeper Star Exponent – by Allison Brophy Champion
Arts education will expand its reach in the Piedmont this summer due to a $20,000 gift from The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
Named for the late Canadian sports owner, the Virginia-based foundation recently awarded the grant to The Castleton Festival in support of its 2015 summer outreach program for area youth, called Castleton Alive. The Rappahannock County venue also has premier events on tap for all ages as part of its upcoming season July 2 to August 2 —though the focus remains on the youngest audiences.
“It is very important that we bring children here otherwise we will not have an audience anymore for classical music,” said Dietlinde Maazel, executive and artistic director of the Castleton Festival she helped found in 2009 with her late husband, Maestro Lorin Maazel, a child prodigy who went on to become the music director of the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera and more.
The Maestro died July 13, and his wife has aptly assumed the reigns at Castleton, where the mission is the same.
“Audiences are getting older so it’s very important to engage young people right away,” she said.
Set on their 600-acre farm, the summer festival celebrates music, theater and opera, hosting world-class performers and mentoring young artists. Castleton Alive allows students to listen to and learn from live opera performances at the festival while also offering in-school programs in theater, song and dance. Programs in Culpeper schools are in the works, said Mrs. Maazel.
Children like opera very much “b ecause it’s very dramatic, a gripping story well-told with great music around it,” said Maazel, mentioning a past performance at Castleton of the Italian opera, Otello.
“We had 200 kids aged 6 to 10,” who caught on quickly that the character Jago, was a bad guy,” she said. “Jealously leads to anger so when the singer who sang his part bowed at the end, all the kids booed. Kids are the best audiences.”
Harold Levy, executive director of The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, noted that the recent grant would be money well spent.
“Steeped in the spirit of Maestro Lorin Maazel, Castleton Alive trains and inspires budding performance artists,” he said. “We are delighted to support programs that will nurture the next generation of opera stars, instrumentalists and conductors.”
A next generation of jazz artists will benefit from Castleton’s first-ever collaboration with renowned jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. The multi-Grammy Award winning trumpeter is hosting a new program, the Summer Jazz Academy, beginning July 19. The two-week residential high school institute will culminate with a performance by Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Marsalis and Maestro Maazel talked about the initiative months before his death. In a video of the conversation, Marsalis spoke about how music camp had a profound impact on him as a youngster.
“There’s something inside of you that yearns to be challenged to develop and mature,” he said. “Camp left an indelible imprint on my playing and who I am as a person.”
Maazel, in the video, called jazz an essential part of human culture.
“When I heard that Wynton Marsalis was also trying to change the lives of people I was thrilled he would want to collaborate with me,” said the late Maestro. “The world of music is where you let go, where you become the person you really are.”
The New Orleans trumpeter revered the French-born conductor, said Dietlinde.
“When Wynton Marsalis was 19, my husband invited him as a classical trumpeter to Pittsburgh and he performed a Bach piece — my husband was so flabbergasted by Wynton’s talent that he took him on tour and that created a real friendship,” said Mrs. Maazel. “H e will be very hands-on, similar to my husband’s philosophy,” she said of Marsalis’ upcoming jazz academy in Rappahannock.
Another new Castleton partnership this year is with the Culpeper State Theatre, which will co-host bluegrass legend Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver July 31 in the Main Street venue.
State Theatre Board Chairman Collis Jenkins said they are happy to partner with Castleton on the concert.
“This is another example of how the State Theatre wants to reach out to surrounding counties to enhance our goal of becoming a community arts center for the region,” he said. “We are very proud and honored to work with Castleton and anticipate there being many more collaborations in the years to come.”
In the coming season at Castleton, Mrs. Maazel will teach five courses as part of the summer festival in addition to directing “Our Town” July 9 and 18. She recently finished her second semester as an instructor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she created and taught a class on acting in opera.
Dietlinde made her first stage performance at the age of 19, launching a decades’ long acting career in film and TV, including the 1980s miniseries, “Mussolini and I,” about the Italian dictator. It starred Anthony Hopkins.
“Oh my gosh, he was such a wonderful colleague,” she recalled of her interaction with the British Oscar winner. “He had no thoughts for Hollywood stardom — was such a modest great man. I remember I was 26 in the dressing room getting made up and he walked in and introduced himself to me as if I was the star. It was a tremendous experience.”
Dietlinde Maazel still acts, but is now “totally into teaching,” she said, as well handing administrative tasks at the festival. Since her husband died, the energy is different at Castleton, said the German-born actress and educator.
“He brought tremendous energy to the table, he was the decision maker together with me so I have to just step up and take the leadership – you kind of grow into a new role that’s been assigned to you,” she said. “I want this festival to be here, to stay and maybe add on a year-round academy as a resource for the community. We are building things that my husband dreamed already.”
Lifelong Castleton resident Christopher Parrish, Rappahannock County Supervisor for the tiny village, said he is a classical music fan who has enjoyed many of the festival’s offerings.
“It’s been a real luxury to have that quality of music in your own backyard,” said Parrish.
He said other longtime residents of the area, however, are not fans of the increased traffic the festival brings or the “humongous, bulbous” white tent that hosts summer programs, apparently blocking mountain vistas. That aside, the elected supervisor said the festival’s offerings are a delight in addition to the educational advantages.
“It’s a great thing for students worldwide to be able to get that kind of training,” said Parrish.