Castleton 2011: Beijing, ‘Boheme’ . . . Blue Rock!

The Castleton Festival’s founders, on whose 550-acre farm the midsummer classical music festival was planted and has outpaced the growth of most other local crops over the last two years, this week announced a third season that simultaneously cements its local ties and extends its reach across the globe.

The announcement of an expanded and fine-tuned 2011 festival, to run a month (June 25 through July 24), came at a press lunch in Washington — the “big” Washington — on Monday. The plans were announced by the festival’s artistic directors — renowned conductor Lorin Maazel and his wife, actress Dietlinde Turban Maazel, arguably among Rappahannock County’s most internationally well-known inhabitants.

The performance schedule includes a production of Puccini’s “La Boheme” (the first that Maazel will have conducted in the U.S.) and new productions of Kurt Weill’s “The Seven Deadly Sins” and Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les Sortileges.”

Also new are expanded local, regional and international partnerships, including three festival performances at George Mason University’s new Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, concerts by the Castleton Festival Orchestra and Maazel at China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing (the week after the local festival ends).

The most significant new local partnership is the festival’s decision to put Blue Rock Inn consulting chef Gerard Pangaud in charge of dining and catering at next year’s festival.

“We weren’t too happy with how the food aspect went last summer,” said Dietlinde Maazel on the phone Tuesday, “and we had always wanted to work with local people on that, but until now there just wasn’t the capacity to deal with it.

“So I was taken out to dinner at the Blue Rock and noticed what was going on there, and then I just contacted Chef Gerard and asked if he’d be interested,” Maazel said. “He’s such a creative man — and the timing just seemed to be right for him. He’s so happy to be on board, we’re so happy to be able to heighten the attention to the Blue Rock and to local inns, so it’s a wonderful marriage,” she said.

Maazel said she and new Festival general director Nancy Gustafson (who had been handling coaching and master class duties for the more than 200 residents from 20 countries who comprise the festival’s performance corps) planned to start up ticket sales, and finalize the few performances not yet nailed down, by the beginning of November. At that time, she said, festival-goers can not only buy their concert tickets online (castletonfestival.org) but also pre-order dinners and other meals to be handled by Pangaud’s operation.

“We want to increase our local connections to the maximum,” she said. “It’s the whole point of having this festival — we want people to, say, be able to easily spend four or five days here, if they’d like.”

The roster of performers at the 2011 festival will also expand, with instrumentalists and singers including mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and violinist Jennifer Koh to perform alongside and mentor the young artists.

“The Castleton Festival Orchestra has grown into a world symphony of young talent,” says Maestro Maazel. “As in previous years, we will have top-flight musicians from many countries and organizations and in addition to players from Qatar, England, Europe, South America and the United States, in 2011 the Castleton Festival will welcome new aspiring talent from Korea and China.”

But the heart of the festival will remain at the Maazels’ Castleton Farms property, with performances of operas and orchestral concerts. In addition to the new productions and four orchestral concerts, revivals of previous Castleton Festival productions of Stravinsky’s “A Soldier’s Tale” and Manuel de Falla’s “Master Pedro’s Puppet Show” will be presented at the 2011 festival — the latter most likely as part of a July 3 “family day,” said Dietlinde Maazel.

“If we do our thing on July 3rd,” she said, meaning evening fireworks capping off family-friendly performances and demonstrations, “then we feel we are not competing with the county’s program [Sperryville Fire Company’s fireworks display is on Fourth itself], but complementing it.”

All of the Castleton Festival productions will continue to be directed by resident stage director William Kerley, with sets and costumes by Nicholas Vaughan and lighting by Rie Ono.

The opening night gala on Friday, June 25 will feature a new production of Puccini’s “La Boheme,” to be performed four times at the festival.

For the first time, the festival won’t include any Benjamin Britten operas at Castleton, but the festival orchestra will be taking its initial specialty on the road, performing “The Rape of Lucretia” and “Albert Herring” at Cal Performances in Berkeley in March, 2011.

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Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 534 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.