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May 14, 2009

Britten operas featured in inaugural Castleton Festival on Lorin Maazel's Virginia estate

Castleton FestivalEminent conductor Lorin Maazel and his wife, Dietlinde Turban-Maazel, could spend all their free time relaxing in total privacy on their 550-acre Castleton Farms in the rolling hills of Virginia's Rappahannock County.

Instead, the couple likes to open up the place to young musicians in the summer, giving them an opportunity to study and perform.

Out of this mentoring program, which has been going on for more than a decade, a three-week festival will emerge in July. (The photo at the right shows Maazel rehearsing in the Theatre House on the estate in 2006.) 

The first Castleton Festival will feature stagings of three Benjamin Britten operas -- The Turn of the Screw, The Rape of Lucretia, Albert Herring -- and one from the early 18th century that he arranged, John Gay's The Beggar's Opera.

There will also be ...

orchestral concerts, recitals and conducting master classes.

I still recall vividly my visit to the farm in 2006 (the photo below shows Dietlinde Turban-Maazel on the grounds of the farm). At that time, Maazel was preparing Britten's The Turn of the Screw in the intimate, state-of-the-art, 130-seat Theatre House on the grounds (the strong production subsequently was presented at the Kennedy Center). An air-conditioned, 250-seat tent will be erected during the festival for some events.

Castleton FestivalMaazel, one of the most technically impressive and musically engaging conductors in the business, will lead the opening nights of each opera; participants in the conducting program will lead the others. William Kerley will be the stage director for all the operas.

The symphonic concerts will include lots of classical favorites, from Beethoven's Seventh to Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.

As you can see from the photos, the estate is an exceptionally inviting place, and, judging from what I heard three years ago, the quality of the musical training that goes on there is first-class.

The festival should be well worth the trek (Castleton Farms is about 60 miles southwest of DC), especially for Britten fans, or folks who want to get to know the composer's remarkable operas better. 

For tickets, call 540-937-4969 or (toll-free) 866-974-0767, or click here.


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:41 PM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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