Date with a diva

Joyce Castle comes home to perform Bernstein

Kansas University alumna and opera singer Joyce Castle will be jetting back and forth across the country this week to keep up with her performance schedule.

This afternoon, she will take the stage as Augusta in New York City Opera's "The Ballad of Baby Doe." She will board a plane after the matinee to fly to Lawrence, where she will meet with baritone Kurt Ollmann and pianists Scott Dunn and Jack Winerock to rehearse for "The Music of Leonard Bernstein," a concert Tuesday night at the Lied Center.

Wednesday morning, she will board another plane to fly back to New York City so she can continue her "Baby Doe" run on Thursday night.

It's a busy schedule, but one Castle is going to add to. She will become artist-in-residence and begin teaching voice at KU in August, while maintaining her performance career.

"It's an interesting turn of events to come back home," said Castle, who grew up in Baldwin and earned a master's degree from Eastman School of Music.

For the Lied Center concert, Castle and Ollman will pair for "Arias and Barcarolles," "Come Up to My Place," "Wrong Note Rag" and "Rain Duet." Castle will solo on "I Can Cook Too," while Ollman will sing "Lonely Town." Dunn will perform "Lucky to be Me."

"Kurt and I have been doing this program, or one similar, for over 10 years," Castle said during a recent phone interview from her New York City home. "We started with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and have performed in Europe, Nebraska, New York, California and lots of other places in the United States. In June, we are going (to take it) to Barcelona to the opera company there."

Castle said she and Ollmann both have worked with Bernstein. She knows him well enough to call him "Lenny."

Their association began with her performances of "Candide" at the New York City Opera, which led to the Grammy Award-winning recording for New World Records. She performed Bernstein's "Songfest" with the Jerusalem Symphony and recently at Tanglewood Music Festival with conductor Seiji Ozawa.

"I was asked to sing at a special tribute to him in London," she added.

Plus, she gave the first performance of "Arias and Barcarolles" with Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas playing pianos.

Ollmann sang the part of Riff on the recording of "West Side Story," conducted by Bernstein. He performed "Songfest" in Rome under Bernstein's direction and in a television production performed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Over the years Castle also has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Company and Chicago Lyric Opera and in opera companies in Seattle, Santa Fe, Dallas, Houston, Washington, D.C., Europe and Canada.

She has appeared on PBS television broadcasts and Saturday afternoon Texaco broadcasts from the Met and has recorded a variety of 20th-century music.

Her future projects include the role of Queen Elizabeth in the first American stage production of Benjamin Britten's "Gloriana" at Central City Opera in Colorado this summer and Gilbert and Sullivan concerts with Raymond Leppard and the Indianapolis Symphony in May.

Looking back over her life, Castle said singing is all she's ever wanted to do.

"Perhaps as childish as it sounds, I've always sang," she said. "At the age of 3, I had my first performance in a Baptist church in Louisiana. My mother (Ethel Malicky, who died last month) played for me, and mother said it was fabulous."


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