For the young acolytes of maestro Lorin Maazel, the show goes on
If only it had been so. In fact, Maazel, who had battled an autoimmune disorder for years, fell ill early in the festival’s four-week run, and younger guest conductors took his place at rehearsals and performances. Then Sunday morning, just hours before our 2 p.m. matinee, the Maestro died.
General manager Nancy Gustafson announced the news to the darkened theater, to gasps from the many in the audience who had not heard. Then, in an astonishing tribute to Maazel — and the spirit of the Castleton Festival he and his wife created — the show went on.
Backstage afterwards, I collapsed in a folding chair next to young tenor Tyler Nelson from Utah who had sung Ottavio in “Don Giovanni” to rave reviews a week earlier — and offered him my sympathies. “Maestro was so encouraging to me. I’m going to miss him so much,” Tyler whispered back. “He had very exacting standards. He demanded a lot of you. But he never put you down, even when he was telling you that you could do better — not like other big musical figures you get the chance to train with.”
The New York Times obituary noted: “Perhaps because he grew up in the limelight, conducting orchestras from the age of 9, Mr. Maazel was self-assured, headstrong and sometimes arrogant.” Arrogant, perhaps, to the wider professional musical world.
But to the young people who flocked to his eight-week summer program and camp for stars-in-the-making, he was the man who — as he described it himself — had found in young musicians the “labor of love — and labor of joy” of his life. And theirs.
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect the name of the general manager of the Castleton Festival. It is Nancy Gustafson.