Castleton-bred stars return for fifth festival in July

World-renowned singers, many of whom launched their performance careers at the Castleton Festival, will appear in the festival’s fifth-anniversary season this July at Castleton Farms.

Tickets for the festival, which features more than 20 performances from July 3-28, went on sale this week. Although it has grown rapidly since its founding in 2009, the Castleton Festival has remained a unique collaboration where emerging talent and established artists come together in a beautiful setting to present music, opera and theater with fresh energy.

Soprano Jennifer Black is among the Castleton alums on stage in Rappahannock this July. Courtesy photo.
Soprano Jennifer Black is among the Castleton alums on stage in Rappahannock this July. Courtesy photo.

Selections in the 2013 program honor two esteemed anniversaries this year: Benjamin Britten’s centenary, and Giuseppe Verdi’s bicentenary. The festival’s operatic offerings explore contrasting themes of love, forgiveness and betrayal, and are titles closely associated with artistic director Lorin Maazel’s career-long expertise in the Italian repertoire and historic productions which he has inspired in the world’s greatest opera houses and on film.

In Castleton’s 648-seat Festival Theatre, Maazel will conduct a new production of Puccini’s “The Girl of the Golden West” (“La Fanciulla del West”) directed by renowned Italian stage director Giandomenico Vaccari, and the Sir Peter Hall/Glyndebourne Festival production of Verdi’s “Otello.” “La Voix Humaine” (“The Human Voice”) appears as a double bill, pairing for the first time the Cocteau play and the Poulenc opera, conducted by Malko Competition co-winner Antonio Mendez, in Castleton’s intimate, 138-seat Theatre House.

In the 2013 Castleton premiere of “Otello,” festival alum Joyce El-Khoury will take the stage as Desdemona, after receiving critical acclaim for her international appearances as Violetta in “La Traviata” and Mimi in Castleton’s 2011 and 2012 productions of “La Boheme.” El-Khoury also performed in the 2010 Castleton productions of “Il Trittico” and “Gianni Schicchi.”

Lorin Maazel has also cast new faces in this production of the dramatic opera Verdi composed near the end of his career: tenors Rafael Rojas and Kirk Dougherty will share the demanding title role. (Kirk Dougherty will sing the role of Cassio in performances where Rojas sings the lead role). Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Javier Arrey will sing the arch-villain, Iago.

Also returning to the stage is Castleton-alum tenor Jonathan Burton as the flawed but romantic anti-hero Dick Johnson in Puccini’s operatic western, “The Girl of the Golden West.” Burton previously appeared as Rodolfo in Castleton’s production of “La Boheme” and recently received rave reviews for his performance in “Turandot” at the Sarasota Opera.

Tenor Jonathan Burton. Courtesy photo.
Tenor Jonathan Burton. Courtesy photo.

Other former Castleton artists appearing in Puccini’s tuneful homage to the Wild West include Paul LaRosa as Sheriff Jack Rance, and Russian soprano Ekaterina Metlova as the gutsy heroine Minnie. She appeared in the title role of Carmen during the 2012 Castleton Festival. Andrew Stuckey, who debuted at Castleton in “Il Tabarro” in 2011, will sing the role of Sonora. Kirk Dougherty will sing the role of Nick the bartender.

The first-ever pairing of the Cocteau play and the Poulenc opera in a double bill of “La Voix Humaine” will mark the return of soprano Jennifer Black, who will sing the role of Elle in the Poulenc opera. Award-winning actor and Castleton co-founder and co-artistic director Dietlinde Turban-Maazel will perform as Elle in the Cocteau play.

Renowned American tenor Neil Shicoff will be featured in the Castleton Festival’s “Salute to Britten/Tchaikovsky,” conducted by Maazel. Shicoff will also teach voice for two weeks as one of the 2013 CATS (Castleton Artists Training Seminar) faculty.

Internationally renowned violinist Dmitri Berlinski makes his Castleton debut playing Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto.

Castleton rounds out its artistic program in 2013 with “Mostly Mahler” – four symphonic concerts, chamber music and song recitals featuring works of Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Britten, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Requiem” and a new work, “Metropolitan,” by Charles Peck, the new Castleton Young Composers Forum work selected by Maestro Maazel. Soprano Black will be the soloist in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and El-Khoury will be the soprano soloist in “Requiem.” In a special concert July 14, Malko Competition winner Rafael Payare will conduct Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, preceded by Maestro Maazel conducting “Metropolitan.”

The Castleton Festival and Maazel will also return to the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas this summer. On Sunday, June 30, they perform “An Italian Extravaganza”; on July 18, they will bring an all-Mahler concert to the venue.

The 2013 Castleton Festival Orchestra includes 46 returning artists and 34 newcomers; the 80 musicians will travel to Castleton from nearby communities and farther-flung states as well as from Hong Kong, Germany and Egypt.

As in previous years, the Castleton Festival will draw on the diverse talent from throughout the Virginia, D.C. and Maryland region. Orlean, Va. native Davone Tines, who received acclaim for his role as the Captain in “The Barber of Seville” in 2012 and traveled to Oman’s Royal Opera House-Muscat with the Castleton production of “La Boheme” in November, will be singing several featured roles throughout the 2013 festival.

As previously announced, the festival will also include song recitals and chamber concerts that showcase the young talent working on the Castleton Festival campus. The new Castleton Chamber Players, featuring violinist Eric Silberger and cellist Daniel Lelchuk, will perform three concerts at Theatre House.

The Glyndebourne staging by Sir Peter Hall of “Otello,” coming this summer to a Festival Theatre near you. Courtesy photo.
The Glyndebourne staging by Sir Peter Hall of “Otello,” coming this summer to a Festival Theatre near you. Courtesy photo.

In addition to singing supporting and chorus roles in the festival’s operatic productions, the 2013 class of 55 Castleton Artist Training Seminar participants will perform separately in recitals of opera scenes during the festival. Now in its fourth year, the CATS program selects young artists to spend the summer living, training and rehearsing with Maestro Maazel, soprano Nancy Gustafson, Dietlinde Turban-Maazel, opera stars Denyce Graves, James Morris and Neil Shicoff and other distinguished musicians.

This year’s class of CATS includes soprano (and Winchester native) Melissa Chavez, who also attended and performed at the Festival in 2012; Fredericksburg-born VCU student soprano Zarah Brock; Baltimore mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Kerstein; and Washington, D.C native Sarah Philippa, along with young men and women from the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada.

With a nod to Virginia’s own musical heritage, Castleton welcomes internationally renowned folk duo Robin & Linda Williams and Their Fine Group to the Festival Theatre to perform on Wednesday, July 3, kicking off the festival and celebrating the Fourth of July with music and fireworks.

Tickets for the 2013 Castleton Festival went on sale Monday (April 1). With prices ranging from $20 to $120, they’re available at or by calling 866-974-0767.

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