In the dressing room off the master bedroom, mezzo-soprano superstar Denyce Graves is choosing between a glittery black gown and a shimmery silver tunic. In the music room nearby, soprano Joyce El-Khoury has donned a full-blown scarlet va-va-voom gown and is topping the outfit off with dangly earrings. Down on the front lawn, a pair of two-week-old lambs is, yes, gamboling around a 280-year-old beech tree.
The divas — and ruminants — are at Castleton Farms in Virginia’s Rappahannock County, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge. The dressing room and music room are part of the stately red brick pre-Civil War manor house that is home to conductor Lorin Maazel; his wife, the German-born actress and singer Dietlinde Turban Maazel, and their children. The house also “belongs” to the scores of musicians and singers who are part of the Maazels’ Chateauville Foundation musical programs and the Castleton Festival, the opera festival now entering its third season (June 25 through July 24). Graves and El-Khoury are here to do publicity pictures for the festival; keeping things in the family, the photos are being taken by the Maazels’ younger son, Leslie, whose luminous landscape shots anchor the festival’s Web site.