Nico Castel, 83, Tenor, Internationally Celebrated Coach and Teacher, has Died
From Development server
2 June 2015

Nico Castel, 83, Tenor, Internationally Celebrated Coach and Teacher, has Died

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Lisbon, Portugal, August 1, 1931 — New York, NY, May 31, 2015 

An internationally celebrated language and diction coach and master teacher, Castel had an enormous impact on the art of singing during his career of more than six decades.  Castel’s association with the Metropolitan Opera, first as a tenor, and then as a diction coach and teacher, endured for forty years; he was on faculty at the Juilliard School, Mannes College The New School for Music, Boston University and the Spoleto Vocal Arts Symposium in Spoleto, Italy; and with his wife, Carol Cates Castel, founded the New York Opera Studio, a training program for young artists.  Born in Portugal and raised in Venezuela, Castel was fluent in six languages.  Castel’s comprehensive series of librettos for operas in Italian, French and German, which translate every word literally and into the International Phonetic Alphabet, are published by Leyerle and are used by singers, teachers and conservatories throughout North America and Europe.

Castel emigrated to the U. S. in 1948, when he was still in his teens, to begin a singing career.  After a win in the “Joy In Singing” competition, Castel made his recital debut at Town Hall in 1958.  Later that year, he made his debut at Santa Fe Opera, then presenting its second season, where he sang Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff, the Italian Tenor in Capriccio and Joseph in the world premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Wuthering Heights.  Castel was to become one of opera’s leading comprimario tenors, a vivid artist whose performances were informed by real character, rather than caricature. 

Although Castel performed with more than a score of opera companies in the U. S., Europe and South America, he was an especially admired member of the opera community in New York.  Castel began his association with New York City Opera in the fall 1965 season, with his debut as Jacob Glock in The Flaming Angel, as well as assignments in Les Contes d’Hoffmann (the four servants) and the world premiere of Ned Rorem’s Miss Julie.  On February 22, 1966, Castel sang one of the pages in the NYCO premiere of Ginastera’s Don Rodrigo, the company’s first performance at Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater.  Among the other historic NYCO performances that featured Castel were the company premieres of The Magic Flute (Monostatos, 1966), Dialogues of the Carmelites (First Commissioner, 1966), The Makropoulos Affair (Hauk-Sendorf, 1970) and Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria (Iro, 1976) as well the world premieres of Vittorio Giannini’s The Servant of Two Masters (Brighella, 1967), Hugo Weisgall’s Nine Rivers from Jordan (Tom Tosser, 1968) and Stanley Silverman’s Madame Adare (Diaghilev, 1980).

In 1970, Castel made his Met debut, as Don Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro, and for several years sang with both the Met and NYCO.  During his twenty-eight seasons on the Met’s roster of singers, Castel sang 793 performances of fifty-seven roles with the company in New York and on tour; his most frequent Met characterizations were the Princess’s Major Domo in Der Rosenkavalier (fifty-three performances) and Lilias Pastia in Carmen (forty-eight).  Castel was a frequent presence in new stagings during John Dexter’s tenure as the company’s director of productions: he sang in the Met premieres of I Vespri Siciliani (Tebaldo, 1974), Dialogues of the Carmelites (Thierry, 1977), Lulu (Prince/Manservant/Marquis, 1977), Billy Budd (Arthur Jones, 1978), Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Announcer, 1979) and Les Mamelles de Tirésias (Journalist, 1981).  Castel’s last Met performance was in 1997, as the Sergeant in Manon, but he remained associated with the company as a coach until he retired in 2009.  He was the author of several books, including A Singer’s Manual of Spanish Lyric Dictionspacer 

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