The danger of living in Rappahannock County is that we might begin to take its natural beauty for granted. A noiseless (for the most part), reverent silence reinforces that beauty. When the silence is broken, that, too, is beautiful — for the sounds most likely emanate from the Castleton Festival.
Now in its sixth year and running through July 20, the Festival is the creation of the Maestro Lorin Maazel and his wife Dietlinde Turban Maazel. Given their international acclaim and prestige, they could have located the Festival anywhere in the world, but they chose Castleton in Rappahannock County.
As measured by ticket sales and other quantifiable measurements, the Festival has grown ever more successful each year. “But it’s the quality of the music-making that counts,” says Maazel, “and the passing on of the love of music to young who must hold high in the coming years the torch of the performing arts.”
At 85 years of age, the usually youthfully vigorous Maestro passed the conductor’s baton to others for the opening performances of “Madama Butterfly” and “Don Giovanni.” The performances were spectacular, both opera buffs and novices agreed.
That the Castleton Festival this season showcases the world’s best opera juxtaposes neatly with the soap-operatic goings on lately in Rappahannock’s county seat of Washington. For the noisy back-and-forth’s at the recent “Rapp Live” provide a readymade libretto; and D.C. developer Jim Abdo’s presentation at that forum lends itself to a memorable aria. Wary county residents could serve the function of a Greek chorus. All that’s needed is a dramatic musical score.
Given Rappahannock’s natural beauty and Castleton’s highest-quality musical tradition, an opera, even a soap opera, would be far more appropriate than the reality TV show that some have suggested. It could take its place alongside other modern operas like “Nixon in China” or “Jerry Springer Show: The Opera.” But whether it could ever merit a production at the Castleton Festival is an open question.