The Castleton Festival, which conductor Lorin Maazel founded on his private estate in Virginia in 2009 and nurtured until his death in 2014, announced Wednesday that it will cancel its summer season in 2016 and take a year-long hiatus.
Apart from a few selected events — including a possible benefit concert with the singers already contracted for the summer season — the leadership team “will use this interim time to build a solid financial foundation for the festival for continued growth in future years,” the festival announced in a statement.
“I have no finances anymore,” said Dietlinde Maazel, the actress and widow of the conductor, who took over the festival after her husband’s death and guided it through a 2015 season that she called “huge.”
But the success of the season — the first under the music director Rafael Payare, the first to include a residency by the Academy of Jazz at Lincoln Center and the first to reach more than 1 million viewers from around the world via live-streaming of events — exhausted the resources of the board and a staff that was too small to keep the necessary fundraising activities going when the festival was over.
“In October, it looked okay,” Dietlinde Maazel said, speaking by phone from New Jersey, where she teaches theater at Rutgers University. But by Christmas, the financial model for the year ahead suddenly seemed much less viable. And the cushion that had previously supported the festival through lean times, the income from Lorin Maazel’s conducting, is no longer available.
Castleton has struggled with conflicting ambitions since Lorin Maazel made the decision to found a festival on a sprawling property in Rappahannock County that he and his wife purchased precisely because it was not easily accessible and was a place to get away from it all. Getting resources and audiences out to the 600-acre estate has always been a challenge. So has getting funders to support a nonprofit organization that for most of its history was perceived as a kind of vanity project of a wealthy conductor who was able to spend what he needed to get the forces he wanted to build a new theater or put on Puccini’s major works.
Lorin Maazel had always wanted the festival to achieve autonomy as a nonprofit organization independent of his resources but died before he could oversee that transition.
Dietlinde Maazel hopes the year off will allow her to reestablish the festival’s financial footing and continue its activities as an educational and performing institution in 2017 — on a smaller scale.