I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the great Nico Castel.
For two summers, I was an apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera, and I count those two summers as the happiest of my life. I was able to work and learn from so many wonderful people, and Nico was one of them. I took several coachings with him on different arias, and he also was the diction coach for our productions of Agrippina and Cendrillon. He would always step in with a correction of a vowel, consonant or phrasal diphthong. He was also a rambunctious, wry, and very funny man who would hold court in the canteen of the Santa Fe Opera and regale us with amusing stories about singers and performances past.
Nico was a phenomenon: teacher, singer, author. His contributions to the art form of opera will live on, especially through his monumental Opera Libretti series, published by Leyerle Press.
On a personal note: after the passing of my mother from ovarian cancer in 1997, we took donations in her memory that were to be given to the music department of my alma mater of Simpson College, in Indianola, Iowa. I struggled for a long time with what to purchase for the school, as this was money given in memory of my beloved mom, and I wanted the gift to be an ongoing contribution to the singers and musicians there. After several YEARS of consideration, I finally found the perfect gift: Nico’s Libretti series. I purchased every volume for the library, and had each inscribed with a memorial of my mom. Later on, as an apprentice at Santa Fe, I was able to personally thank Nico for his work, a recollection that at first brought tears to my eyes, and then tears of gratitude and affection from his.
I will always remember that moment and think of him with the utmost fondness, appreciation, and respect.
Sleep well, dear Maestro. For all of us touched by your work and dedication to opera and language in all its beauty and meaning, I thank you. You will continue to touch the lives of those who continue to know and do more for this art form that we all love.