Castleton View Road in Castleton, Virginia. Photo by Sherry Davis . The news of Maestro Lorin Maazel 's passing in July brought fo...Monday, September 01, 2014
A Mozartian in Castleton Meadows
|Castleton View Road in Castleton, Virginia. Photo by Sherry Davis.|
An excerpt from my February 19th entry: I was just notified last week of my acceptance as an apprentice for the Chateauville Foundation and their Castleton Residency production of The Beggar's Opera. How exciting it was to receive the news! It's going to be an incredible journey living and working with so many brilliant directors, artists and singers. The Beggar's Opera (1728) and other ballad operas fathered the German Singspiel, a genre that Mozart would master, so I'm looking forward to studying this connection in greater detail. According to The Complete Book of Light Opera, ballad opera was considered to be an eighteenth-century protest against the Italian conquest of the London operatic scene. In drawing a parallel, it can be argued that the Singspiel was Mozart’s protest against the Italian presence in Vienna. I'll be departing for Castleton this weekend and will be there until the end of March. I'll write as time permits!
|Fair Haven House was my home away from home in Castleton. Photo by Sherry Davis.|
There were several houses on the property (Castleton Meadows) where artists lived happily alongside the workings of a Virginia farm, a world-class theater and the Maestro's Civil War-era manor house. I resided in Fair Haven with other female participants who included singers, stage directors and costume designers. We were accommodated generously. There was no television (purposely, I'm sure!), but alas, there was a keyboard! Some nights were spent singing together and gathering around the piano. As in Mozart's 18th Century, the keyboard was once again right at the center of the social conversation. On any given day, I would often hear singing throughout the house. English soprano Sarah Gabriel enjoyed warming up with Mozart's Solfeggi from K. 393, vocal exercises most likely written for his wife Constanze to prepare her for performing the Mass in C Minor (K. 427).
|My roommate, Sarah, allowed me to borrow her score of Mozart's Solfeggi, K. 393. Photo by Sherry Davis.|
Although the Maestro was in Castleton for a good part of the residency, he also had obligations to fulfill as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. On February 26th, he took the orchestra to perform in an historic concert in Pyongyang, North Korea, which was broadcast on Korean state television and also aired internationally. In the Maestro's words: "I have always believed that the arts, per se, and their exponents, artists, have a broader role to play in the public arena. But it must be totally apolitical, nonpartisan, and free of issue-specific agendas. It is a role of the highest possible order; bringing peoples and their cultures together on common ground, where the roots of peaceful interchange can imperceptibly but irrevocably take hold." His philosophy permeated throughout the residency. Castleton was abuzz with news of the successful campaign. And as I recall, there was much excitement surrounding the Maestro's appearance on The Colbert Report!
|On opening night, the theater house was especially adorned with natural elegance. Photo by Sherry Davis.|
Meanwhile, as a Production Management Apprentice on the farm, I worked with Executive Director Douglas Beck and Project Coordinator Ronit Schlam who were normally based in the Maestro's New York City office. One minute I was sitting on stage as a model for lighting designer Rie Ono and the next minute I was running into the neighboring town of Culpeper for prop materials! I wore many hats and I loved every minute of it. The experience gave me an understanding of the operations of performance that I would not have otherwise encountered. My responsibilities included assisting with the set, arranging travel and housing, creating the opera program and managing payment schedules for personnel. And in between, there were visits with farm animals (Omar the camel was a favorite!), walks, trampoline sessions, trips to the bowling alley in the theater house, a golf cart ride, a ping-pong match and a bit of tennis here and there. I was even witness to the birth of baby piglets!
After weeks of rehearsals and preparations, opening night was soon upon us. I took on box office duties, distributed programs and ushered guests. When everything was in place, I took my seat in the front row. In the orchestra pit in front of me, Maestro Maazel was conducting the Keio University Orchestra of Japan. The intimate theater space gave way to many memorable moments in the performance in which the singers and Maestro flirted playfully with the audience in both dialogue and action with cast members venturing beyond the stage to carry the story forward. This would not have otherwise been possible in a larger venue (again, very 18th Century!). For example, when Macheath said "I must have women," the Maestro replied from the pit, "I know the feeling!" My diary recollects the scene: It was a riot, especially as this dialogue followed Macheath's aria Lilies and Roses in which the Maestro gave such a dreamy look and the crowd roared with laughter.
|Maestro Maazel takes a bow with our cast of The Beggar's Opera. Photo by Castleton Festival.|
I'd like to close my commemorative sentiments with a 2013 quote from Maestro Maazel accompanied by his 1966 performance of Mozart's violin concerto K. 216 with the Vienna Philharmonic.
"Every performing musician has a very personal view of Mozart, who is a universal voice. And each one of us, whether you're a spectator or a musician, finds a truth within himself or herself revealed by the extraordinary clarity of his music."
Thank you, Maestro.