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Lorin Maazel to launch festival at his Virginia estate

Lorin Maazel to launch festival at his Virginia estate

When Lorin Maazel finishes his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic in June he will not move anything like a retirement mode. Instead, he will head to his bucolic, 550-acre estate in the Virginia countryside, where he and his wife, actress Dietlinde Turban-Maazel, will launch an annual music festival. This festival on those picturesque grounds of Castleton Farms in Rappahannock County will bring together young professionals and students for intensive training and experience. The inaugural venture, July 4-19, will focus on  chamber operas by Benjamin Britten, with public performances in the extraordinarily intimate and inviting 130-seat theater that has been in use at the Maazel home since 1997, and in a new theater twice that size being built in a renovated barn and silo.

For several years now, Castleton Farms has been the site of a nurturing program for young artists in the summer, a private music camp in a most idylic setting. It's a project of the Maazels'  Chateauville Foundation. A rehearsal I saw there of Britten's The Turn of the Screw a few years ago easily revealed how much care and quality was going into the training (the production was later presented at the Kennedy Center). Expanding to a full-fledged festival "is something no one, especially me, had in mind," Maazel said in phone call yesterday. "My wife and I lived here in utter solitude for 20 years. The idea of ...

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anything reminiscent of the year behind or the year in front of us was anathema. We had that joy, those years of quiet. But we have an interest in young people and we felt we have a repsonsibility to them, to help them."  Out of that came the idea of summer residency for aspiring musicians and, with the creation of the first theater on the grounds, the tackling of opera production and that remarkable Turn of the Screw staging. "I had no idea it would become so fruitful," Maazel said. "We realized we had a festival in the making and we should thus give it shape and thrust."

So, after opening on July 4 "with the appropriate fireworks," the conductor said, the Castleton Festival will offer four Britten chamber operas: The Turn of the Screw, Albert Herring, The Rape of Lucretia and Britten's version of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. In between all the performances, there will be career-honing activities for the young musicians. "I'll be giving a master class in conducting for the first time with selected students," Maazel said. Workshops for young people interested in theater production will also be a part of the experience. "There will be wall-to-wall programs covering just about every aspect of opera," Maazel said. The eminent conductor plans to invite notable artists from the opera world to the festival to mentor and coach the participants. "That's something desperately needed," Maazel said. "Young people are always asking me 'where do we go, how do we learn.' They need points of reference."

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Maazel said he has "major commitments" for funding for the first three years of the festival. And he's already looking ahead to 2010. "There are hundreds of chamber operas that are never performed," he said. Cimarosa and early Mozart works are likely to get attention. Details on tickets for the public will be released in early 2009. Meanwhile, a fundraising concert for the festival, "An Evening with Marvin Hamlisch," will be held at the Kennedy Center on Oct. 10. Maazel will join in the concert, which will feature some of the festival's young artists.

BALTIMORE SUN PHOTO OF LORIN MAAZEL (conducting at Castleton Farms) 

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