Lorin and Dietlinde Maazel, founders of Rappahannock County’s annual Castleton Festival, were honored Tuesday (Feb. 10) by the Virginia General Assembly as the “Outstanding Virginians of 2015” at a ceremony on the floor of the State House in Richmond.
The Maestro, who died unexpectedly during the 2014 festival last July, was widely recognized as one of the world’s best conductors and most recently had served as the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. The music festival, founded in 2009 by the Maazels at their estate and farm amid Castleton’s rolling hills, presents opera, classical music, bluegrass and — for the first time this coming July — a jazz education and performance program led by Wynton Marsalis.
After the conductor’s death, his wife, actress and teacher Dietlinde Turban-Maazel, took over leadership of the festival, which this year will include Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center residency as well as a new comic opera based on Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Ginsburg.
Governor Terry McAuliffe hosted a luncheon honoring Mrs. Maazel and said, “We are proud of Lorin Maazel’s artistic leadership in Virginia. For many years he and Dietlinde have made a significant contribution to the cultural fabric of Virginia through the Castleton Festival.”
“This is all bittersweet,” Dietlinde Maazel emailed after what she described as “an amazing event,” including lunch at the governor’s mansion and sessions in each chamber of the General Assembly, during which Rappahannock’s Del. Michael Webert and Sen. Mark Obenshain introduced the Outstanding Virginian measure to standing ovations for Mrs. Maazel. Her party included the couple’s son, Orson, plus Rappahannock County Administrator John McCarthy and Castleton staff and supporters. She added: “My stomach kept screaming, ‘Why is Lorin not here with me?’ ”
In making the Senate presentation, Obenshain (R-26th) said, “Today we honor the late Maestro Lorin Maazel and his widow Dietlinde Turban Maazel of Castleton in Rappahannock County. They 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.”
In his presentation in the House, Webert (R-18th) said, “The Maazels love the world of music and believe that the classics must be passed on to an inspired new generation of musicians. They believe this is best done through the old system of a master musician mentoring a student in his home. They have done this on a huge scale at their farm in Castleton.
“Mrs. Maazel has been responsible for the planning and daily on-site operations of the festival while the Maestro travelled the world both as an ambassador for the festival and, in part, guest conducting to support the festival’s large budget,” Webert added. “He conducted his last concert in late spring of 2014, shortly before his untimely death in July 2014. At his wish, he is buried at Castleton.”
McCarthy said later that the presentations in the House and Senate did much to illustrate the late conductor’s “extraordinary commitment to music education in general, and the Castleton Festival in particular.”
“On behalf of Lorin and myself,” Dietlinde Maazel added, “I am honored by this award from the people of Virginia for our work to promote classical music and opera. We want to demystify this important art form and make it accessible to a younger generation.”
A formal ceremony of the public service and civic activism award, which has been given each year since 1984 to judges, college presidents, lawmakers, philanthropists and others chosen by the General Assembly-appointed Outstanding Virginian Committee, is held annually in Front Royal, where a permanent display of the previous winners is at the 4-H Education Center. The first award went to U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. of Winchester.
The Castleton Festival is distinct among other festivals in the Washington, D.C. region because of its combined roles as a producing entity, a modern performance venue and a mentoring program for young artists and theater professionals. The Festival’s seventh season is July 2-Aug. 2. More information at castletonfestival.org.