International institute named for Lorin Maazel will spark Castleton performances

Dietlinde Maazel: ‘I’ve always wanted to do something in honor of Loren’

In collaboration with The Castleton Festival in Rappahannock County, the Lorin Maazel Castleton Institute was launched this month by The Châteauville Foundation and the late maestro’s widow, actress and musician Dietlinde Turban Maazel.

The educational institute’s mission is to perpetuate and expand the spirit of Maestro Maazel, according to Dietlinde, who with conductor and coach Michael Recchiuti has already begun assembling small groups of internationally acclaimed mentors and exceptional young artists for “intensive work sessions.”

The first of the instructional sessions, held the first two weeks of May, just concluded in New York City. Additional work sessions will take place in significant cultural venues around the world, permitting the institute “to engage the finest faculty and the largest, most diverse body of students.”

Stemming from the inaugural session in New York, Castleton in Performance next Saturday, June 1, will be premiering the institute’s first-ever performance at the Theatre House in Castleton, titled “A Musical Journey in Celebration of Castleton.”

“I’m very pleased,” said Dietlinde, who arrived back in Rappahannock last Friday. “I’ve always wanted to do something in honor of Loren. He was never about himself, he never called [Castleton] the Maazel festival, or anything near that. But I think it’s really time, as we remember him and what he stood for, to broaden the ideas he had, working with artists worldwide . . .

“It just occurred to us that we could really expand the idea of making a difference in these young mature artists’ lives,” she told this newspaper. “Our teaching approach happens to be so similar to Loren, who spent so many years in Italy, France and Germany, and knew so well these musical traditions, and how music should be performed. I lived side by side with him for 31 years, so I can finally bring all of this back to the table.”

As for holding work sessions around the world, Dietlinde said “as beautiful as it is to spend seven or eight weeks in Castleton” it’s not geographically feasible when the purpose is to discover budding international talent.

“We started the project in New York, at Opera America, the national opera center for the states,” she says. “Then we can come back to Castleton in the form of a concert, or weekend long performances, perhaps even another opera performance depending on the fundraising.”

She describes the sessions as a “measurable success approach,” consisting of a very selective audition process, including filming on the first day and last days of the courses, “so when seeing the films back to back you can really measure the progress how the performers matured and have grown in their roles.”

The institute’s programming will expand over time to include all cultural spheres that were of interest to Maestro Maazel: music, visual arts, creative writing, dance and history.

The concert portion of the program, entitled “1900: Looking Back, Looking Forward,” will feature Recchiuti, international opera star and soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, as well as the most compelling young artists from the Lorin Maazel Castleton Institute.

Recchiuti, who with Dietlinde plays a significant role in the institute’s work session instruction, is active internationally as a conductor, pianist, and accompanist. He has collaborated with artists of the international opera stage, and Grammy and Tony award winners such as Giuseppe Giacomini, Placido Domingo, Renee Fleming, Ceclia Gasdia, and Vanessa Williams.

Michael Recchiuti, maestro and pianist, plays a significant role in the new Lorin Maazel Castleton Institute. Courtesy Photo

He was the head of the musical staff at Venice’s Gran Teatro La Fenice, and Consulente Musicale for the Ente Lirico in Cagliari Sardegna. He was a guest conductor at the Budapest State Opera in the Spring Festival, and for the Summer Festival production of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Here in the United States, he is artistic and general director of the American Opera Theater and founding principal conductor of the New Jersey Opera Theater. He is also founding music director of Opera de las Americas, the national opera of the Dominican Republic.

Internationally renowned soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs will perform during the June 1st “Musical Journey in Celebration of Castleton.” The concert celebrates the first performance stemming from the educational efforts of the inaugural New York City session of the Lorin Maazel Castleton Institute. Courtesy of James Charles Barker

Blancke-Biggs is described as one of the most brilliant dramatic sopranos on the international scene today, and has portrayed many of opera’s most iconic roles. Hailed by Placido Domingo as one of the most outstanding young Verdi singers, she appeared with him at the Washington National Opera in Giordano’s Fedora. At the Metropolitan Opera, she made her debut in Verdi’s La Traviata, and returned there to sing the Sirius Satellite Radio Broadcast of Puccini’s Tosca. Her Italian debut was at the Teatro Regio di Torino in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, and she most recently was invited to star in the centennial production of Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West at Palermo’s Teatro Massimo.

Local residents might recall that Blancke-Biggs starred at the Castleton Music Festival in 2013.

“Our audience in Castleton is in for a unique, enchanting evening, hearing mentors and mentees side by side,” Dietlinde says of the June 1 performance.

A cocktail hour will begin at 6 p.m., followed by the concert at 7 p.m. and a post-concert dinner in the elegant Great Room and Theatre Terrace. Recchiuti will deliver an entertaining and informative narrative during the concert between each performance piece.

The concert will feature music themed to the early 20th century, with works by classical composers Ildebrando Pizzetti, Stefano Donaudy, Giacomo Puccini, Arnold Schoenberg, Joseph Marx, and Richard Strauss.

Tickets prices are $75 (including cocktail hour and dinner), and the performance will be held in the Theatre House at Castleton (663 Castleton View Road, Castleton. Call Connie Payne at 540.937.3454 for more information and visit to purchase tickets.

About John McCaslin 469 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at

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