Vocalist recalls summer studying with Maestro Lorin Maazel

Carratura performing at Castleton

Mason Gross Music major Nicholas Carratura was one of six vocalists who spent the summer training with Maestro Lorin Maazel at his prestigious Castleton Festival in rural Virginia. Celebrated mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves opened the month-long festival. Maazel, former music director of the New York Philharmonic, and his wife, Dietlinde Maazel, established Castleton in 2009 on the grounds of their sprawling estate in Rappahannock County. Opera singer and Mason Gross faculty member Nancy Gustafson acts as general manager of Castleton, while Maestro Maazel serves as artistic director and chief conductor. Each summer, they gather vocalists and instrumentalists to live and study alongside Maazel and perform under his baton. Carratura describes his Castleton experience here:

Six weeks, productions of The Barber of Seville, Carmen, A Little Night Music, La Bohème, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, two songs recitals, an opera scenes program, and a few low-key cabaret style performances—that would be the basic description of my experience at the Castleton Festival. Yet it does not even scratch the surface of the kinds of opportunities I had at the festival.        

I had the privilege of studying German and acting and taking lieder classes with actress Dietlinde Maazel, lessons with opera singer Stanford Olsen and coachings with myriad talented musicians. The continued support and teachings of Rutgers faculty members Eduardo Chama and Nancy Gustafson provided me with a vast pool resources—all of which I needed, because the program was not without its challenges.        

Some of those challenges included a freak storm, which hit the D.C. area during the intermission of our second performance of The Barber of Seville. The power was out in the entire area. We could not finish the performance, and the opening of Carmen had to be postponed. But the show did go on—just not as planned. In order to entertain the 600 guests, that night we put on an impromptu grab-bag variety show. 

One of the most important things I learned was to trust the talent and teachers around me. Six weeks to put on all of those shows was not a lot of time, and with the exception of The Barber of Seville, all of them seemed like they would fall apart at one point or another. Yet they all ended up great.

This program wasn’t simply performing or learning—it was both. They expected more from the performances than what I could do when I showed up, and then helped me to get to where I needed to be.

The festival threw new challenges and lessons toward me at every step. But the festival also ended up answering several lingering questions I had had for a long time: Would I enjoy the life of an opera singer? Could I rise above uncontrollable events and still put on a good show? Could I handle the juggling act of putting on multiple productions at once? All were answered with a resounding Yes!

Posted August 2012