American mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle anticipates celebrating her ruby anniversary in 2010. An extraordinarily versatile artist, during the four decades of her professional performing career she has left an indelible imprint on her operatic repertoire which now includes over one hundred and thirty roles in works by composers ranging from Bernstein to Wagner. Critics worldwide have recognized her unique combination of a “richly nuanced voice, profound dramatic skills and a superb sense of musicianship.”… Show more
Joyce Castle is extraordinarily committed to the music of our time. To commemorate her fortieth anniversary season, Miss Castle will premiere a vocal chamber work written for her by National Medal of Arts and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom. The work was commissioned by Backshore Artists Projects, Inc. in honor of the mezzo-soprano and made possible by a generous grant from Linda and Stuart Nelson. In its initial season, the work will be played by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s Chamber Players and Mr. Bolcom at the Morgan Library in New York City, the Brooklyn Museum and Dia Beacon. Additional performances are slated for venues nationwide. Celebrating her twenty-fifth anniversary as a principal artist with the New York City Opera, Miss Castle will appear in an All-Star Salute to the company on the occasion of the reopening of the renovated David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.
She has also elected to focus on contemporary opera engagements during the 2009-2010 season. A popular Glimmerglass Opera guest artist, returns to Cooperstown in summer 2009 to perform The Mother in Menotti’s The Consul in a production directed by Sam Helfrich with David Angus leading his first performances as Music Director of the company. Miss Castle has previously performed the role at Berkshire Opera, Arizona Opera, and recorded her “poignant” portrayal for Newport Classics. Joyce Castle will give her first performances as the central character of “Madeline” in Jake Heggies’s opera Three Decembers in a Ken Cazan production at Central City Opera in Colorado
and in Philadelphia. Miss Castle’s prior performances of the role of Mrs. Grose in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw occurred in Seattle and Fort Worth and she will make her Boston Lyric Opera debut in the opera this season. Having performed the role of Augusta Tabor in seven productions of The Ballad of Baby Doe, and perhaps more than any other mezzo in the history of Douglas Moore’s opera, Joyce Castle joins Robert Orth in introducing this historic story rooted in the American West to audiences at Intermountain Opera in Montana. She rounds out her 2009-2010 opera season as the imposing Principessa in Suor Angelica in a Utah Symphony and Opera reengagement.
In recent seasons, Miss Castle’s portrayal of leading roles in contemporary opera has brought her singular success. Characterized as “a compelling actress in both comedy and pathos” in Michael Torke and A.R. Gurney’s world premiere opera Central Park at Glimmerglass Opera (televised nationwide on WNET – Channel 13 and recorded for release by Ecstatic Records), acclaimed for her heralded as a “chillingly malevolent” Madame Flora in The Medium (performed at Opera Delaware and recorded and released by Cedille Records), and recognized for her “marvelously sardonic” Claire Zakanassian in the New York premiere of Von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady (in a New York City Opera production directed by Joanne Akalaitis which was mounted for her), Joyce Castle has employed her formidable vocal and theatrical gifts to sculpt distinctive and memorable characterizations. Praised in the Denver Post for her performance as Elizabeth I in the American stage premiere of Britten’s Gloriana, the critic wrote; “…Castle rules the show. Her voice is authoritative with a dark edge to it that makes Elizabeth the commanding presence on stage that she is.”
Outstanding in her American opera experience, are her now legendary performances as Augusta Tabor in Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe. She has received critical acclaim from coast to coast for her portrayal of this complex character. Writing of her appearance in the Seattle Opera production, the Seattle Times reported “Castle’s Augusta in Doe is superb… the Augusta of Mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle is the definitive show-stopper of this production. Castle has every nuance of the role clasped in a fist of iron, and she knows how to command your sympathy for this character of missed opportunities. Vocally persuasive, emotionally compelling, this is a portrayal for the books - one in which every note and every gesture is so right that you want to salute her.”
Most recently Joyce Castle performed the role on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opera’s première at Central City Opera House a short distance from Leadville, the actual site of the opera’s story. She performed both Dominick Argento's eccentric Madame d'Urfe in the heralded New York premiere of Casanova and the silent screen siren Alla Nazimova in The Dream of Valentino at the Washington National Opera. As the Old Lady in Candide (performed at the New York City Opera and recorded on a Grammy Award-winning disc for the New World label) and Mrs. Lovett in Hal Prince's critically acclaimed production of Sweeney Todd (in both Houston and New York), Joyce Castle significantly contributed to the acceptance of Leonard Bernstein’s and Stephen Sondheim's masterful scores as appropriate repertoire for the opera house. She has also performed the Baroness in Samuel Barber’s Vanessa at the Washington Opera and at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam under the auspices of VARA Radio. Miss Castle is a champion of the music of Jake Heggie. In addition to the leading role in his Three Decembers which she performs in two productions in the upcoming season, she performed the role of Mrs. Bertram in his opera The End of the Affair at Seattle Opera in a Leonard Foglia production conducted by Yves Abel and at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in performances conducted by Artistic Director Ward Holmquist.
In December 2005, Joyce Castle gave the world premiere of Statuesque, a vocal chamber work composed by Jake Heggie to poetry written by Gene Scheer. The work was commissioned by the University of Kansas and performed with Mr. Heggie at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (the home of Jazz at Lincoln Center), at Roosevelt University and Chicago’s Cultural Center in Chicago, as well as at the Spencer Museum of Art in Kansas. A recording of Statuesque was completed at the state-of-the art Skywalker Sound Studios in January 2007. Flesh & Stone Songs of Jake Heggie was released on the Americus Records label and is a record-selling disc benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Joyce Castle was an American in Paris for a number of years, and as a result she is in demand as an interpreter of the French repertoire. The multi-talented singing-actress had the unique distinction of appearing concurrently in two modern French-influenced works at Lincoln Center: Les Dialogues des Carmélites at the New York City Opera contrasted with an original work written by Martha Clarke and Charles L. Mee titled Belle Epoque at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Miss Castle performed the Prioress in the Tazewell Thompson production of Poulenc’s opera at the New York City Opera reprising her Glimmerglass Opera performance. She has also performed the role at Central City Opera, at the Danny Kaye Playhouse in New York City as a guest artist of Mannes College/The New School for Music, and has previously performed Mother Marie at Seattle Opera. In Martha Clarke’s theatrical work, Miss Castle portrayed a cabaret singer, modeled after Yvette Guilbert, who inspired French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The chanteuse performed a selection of songs heard in the Moulin Rouge nightclub Paris in the 1890s. Building on this theatrical experience, Joyce Castle and pianist Ted Taylor have performed their French cabaret program as gala benefit evenings for performing arts organizations extending from New Mexico to New York. She also collaborate with Sir Richard Rodney Bennett in a performance of cabaret songs at an ‘April in Paris’ gala for Glimmerglass Opera in Manhattan.
Prior appearances in standard French operatic repertoire include Madame de la Haltière in Cendrillon which she first performed at the Washington National Opera. This role has since provided her introduction to the Teatro Regio di Torino, the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse and at De Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp, all in a Robert Carsen production. She repeated the role in the Renaud Doucet and Andre Barbe production at the New York City Opera and appeared in Anne Bogart’s adaptation Cinderella-Cendrillon in an Off-Broadway production produced by the Music-Theatre Group. At the Washington National Opera and the Florida Grand Opera she was also seen as the Marquise in La Fille du Régiment. L'Opéra Français de New York’s Artistic Director Yves Abel invited the “distinguished” mezzo-soprano to perform the role of Geneviève in a production of Pelléas et Mélisande at the Danny Kaye Playhouse in New York City.
Twentieth-century German repertoire has also served as a vehicle for Joyce Castle. Miss Castle gave her first performances as Herodias in Salome in the acclaimed Washington National Opera production staged by Sir Peter Hall. Since then she has performed the role at the Calgary Opera where she was cited as the “ideal Herodias,” at Manitoba Opera, Opera Columbus, Austin Lyric Opera, Arizona Opera, Florentine Opera and Seattle Opera. Abroad, she performed the role in a Willy Decker production at De Vlaamse Opera. The mezzo-soprano made her role debut as Klytemnestra in Elektra at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee where Opera News characterized her performances as “a gloriously sung, spellbinding portrait of this guilty queen.” Other Strauss operas in which she has appeared include Der Rosenkavalier (Annina) at the Metropolitan Opera and Die Schweigsame Frau (the Housekeeper) at the Santa Fe Opera. In addition to von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady mentioned previously, she appeared in Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten, and performed Weill’s Emma Jones in Street Scene, all at the New York City Opera. An accomplished pianist, Joyce Castle is perhaps the only singer to play her own piano part while portraying the salty character of Widow Begbick in Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny. She performed the work at both the Washington National Opera and in Opera Boston’s production conducted by Artistic Director Gil Rose and directed by Sam Helfrich. At Seattle Opera, Miss Castle gave her first performances of Fricka and Waltraute in The Ring with great success. She also appeared as Fricka at L’Opera de Montreal.
The mezzo-soprano participated in the world premiere of Dream of Valentino by Argento, mentioned previously, and the American premieres of A Night at the Chinese Opera by Weir, The Black Mask by Penderecki, and The King Goes Forth to France by Sallinen at the Santa Fe Opera and the world premieres of Where's Dick at the Houston Grand Opera (directed by Richard Forman). Miss Castle has appeared in the North American premiere of Poul Ruder’s opera The Handmaid’s Tale (role of Serena Joy) which was based on the acclaimed novel by Margaret Atwood. The Eric Simonson production was conducted by Antony Walker at Minnesota Opera. At the American premiere of Bohuslav Martinu’s Comedy On The Bridge at Chicago Opera Theater, Miss Castle was seen as Eva. At the New York City Opera, she performed Zeresh in the New York premiere of Hugo Weisgall's Esther and appeared in twentieth-century works The Rake’s Progress (Baba the Turk and Mother Goose) and The Love for Three Oranges (Fata Morgana). Joyce Castle has participated in the development of many music-theater projects including a recent staged reading of Casanova Returns based on the opera Casanova’s Homecoming by Dominick Argento. Arthur Masella directed the New York performances of the musical with a book by Edward Gallardo, lyrics by Sarah Schlesinger, and music by Grammy award winner, Mike Reid.
At the Metropolitan Opera, Miss Castle has performed many of the roles in the standard repertoire for her voice including Die Fledermaus (Orlovsky), Hansel and Gretel (Witch), Il tabarro (Frugula), Gianni Schicchi (Zita), Boris Godounov (Innkeeper), Eugene Onegin (Larina), Andrea Chenier (Countess), Susannah (Mrs. McLean), Götterdämmerung (2nd Norn), Die Walküre (Waltraute) and Der Rosenkavalier (Annina) mentioned previously. Many of her performances were broadcast and telecast from the theater.
In addition to her Metropolitan Opera performances, she has also performed Orlovsky at the Santa Fe Opera in the Charles Ludlam production, at the Seattle Opera, and at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In the Italian repertoire, she has also performed Mistress Quickly in Falstaff at The New Israeli Opera and made her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as the Principessa in Suor Angelica and Zita in Gianni Schicchi. Honoring her Czech heritage, Miss Castle added Jezibaba in Dvorák’s Rusalka to her repertoire at the Seattle Opera and will return to Seattle as Marfa in Katya Kabanova in a future season.
Very convincing in ‘cross-over’ repertoire, audiences have enjoyed Joyce Castle’s performances of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Meg in Brigadoon, Katisha in The Mikado, Buttercup in HMS Pinafore and Ruth in Pirates of Penzance in venues from New York to Vancouver. She performed cello-playing Lady Jane in Patience at Glimmerglass Opera and returned for the role of Public Opinion in Offenbach’s Orpheus and the Underworld. She made her role debut as the Fairy Queen in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe with the San Francisco Symphony in staged performances directed by Patricia Birch and conducted by George Manahan. She also joined the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in a Gilbert & Sullivan concert with Raymond Leppard, CBE.
A noted performer of the works of Leonard Bernstein, Miss Castle sang the first performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles with Maestro Bernstein and Michael Tilson-Thomas at the piano. She made her Israeli debut with the Jerusalem Symphony in Songfest, and performed the same work with Seiji Ozawa at Tanglewood and in the inaugural Gettysburg Music Festival in Pennsylvania. She appeared in an all-Bernstein program with David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony, with the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival, with the Columbus Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, and at Carnegie Hall. Joyce Castle performed Candide with the London Symphony Orchestra in her U.K. debut, and On The Town in her San Francisco Symphony debut. She made her Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Bryant Park (NYC), Performing Arts Chicago, Wisconsin Union Theater, and her Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona) debuts with Kurt Ollmann in a popular program that included Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles, and appeared as soloist in a festival of American works (including Bernstein) sponsored by the Wolf Akademie of Stuttgart. Miss Castle and Mr. Ollmann repeated the Bernstein program they gave in Barcelona at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
In demand as a concert artist, she was heard as guest soloist in an all-Kurt Weill program with the Baltimore Symphony (David Zinman, conductor). Miss Castle gave the New York premiere of Schnittke's Cantata Seid Noechtem Und Wachet with the American Symphony Orchestra at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. She also performed in chamber music programs featuring the work of Charles Ives at the Bard Festival and performed and recorded Wolpe’s Drei Lieder von Bertolt Brecht with the contemporary ensemble Parnassus. Her New York Philharmonic debut performing the challenging Aventures et Nouvelles Aventures by G. Ligeti in the first performances of this work at Lincoln Center.
European performances have included Peter Grimes with Seiji Ozawa at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Italy and many operas-in-concert for Radio France including Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, Die Soldaten, The Old Maid and the Thief, Trouble in Tahiti and The Turn of the Screw. She also performed Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Christoph Eschenbach at the Accademia de Santa Cecilia in Rome.
Joyce Castle has recorded a wide variety of twentieth century music. In addition to the Americus recording mentioned above, her recording of the Mother in Menotti’s The Consul has been released on Newport Classics and The Medium (title role) was released by Cedille Records. Miss Castle may also be heard on the Grammy Award-winning New World Records recording of Candide as the Old Lady, the Book-of-the-Month recording of Sondheim (singing “Send in the Clowns” and Sweeney Todd selections), the Koch recording of The Music of Stefan Wolpe, and the Albany Records album of the Vocal Music of Joseph Fennimore. Michael Torke and A.R. Gurney’s opera Strawberry Fields was recorded with Miss Castle in performance with the Albany Symphony and released on the Ecstatic Records label.
The mezzo-soprano is a graduate of the University of Kansas where she received a B.F.A. and the Eastman School of Music where she earned a Masters of Music degree. She was honored to receive the 2004 Distinguished Alumni Award from Eastman School of Music and the 1993 Department of Theatre and Film Alumni Award from the University of Kansas. Joyce Castle is a frequent adjudicator of the Lotte Lenya Competition held under the auspices of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. Miss Castle is a member of the Board of Directors of the New York City Opera. While continuing to pursue her professional career, Joyce Castle is Professor of Voice at the University of Kansas.
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