LAWRENCE — Most distinguished professors at the University of Kansas don’t break out into song. Then again, most aren’t internationally renowned mezzo-sopranos, either.
University Distinguished Professor of Voice Joyce Castle will direct and sing in the one-act opera “Strawberry Fields” for her distinguished professor inaugural “lecture” at 6 p.m. Jan. 21 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre of Murphy Hall. This performance is free and open to the public.
The opera is part two of a trilogy on the subject of New York City’s Central Park. Composed by Michael Torke with libretto by A.R Gurney, “Strawberry Fields” presents the unusual behavior and reflections of a delusional woman on a park bench. Although most passers-by are confused by her actions, she makes a brief connection with a student who is as passionate about John Lennon’s music as she is about Verdi.
Since Castle’s professional debut at the San Francisco Opera in 1970, she has been in demand worldwide for both opera and concert appearances. Castle was a leading artist at the New York City Opera for 25 years and performed at the Metropolitan Opera for 14 seasons. She has appeared with every major opera company in the United States, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Washington National Opera, the Houston Grand Opera and Seattle Opera. She has performed in opera houses from the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Spain to NHK Hall in Japan, including appearances in Belgium, Germany, Canada, Israel, Italy, Brazil and in opera houses throughout France.
International concert engagements have included appearances at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Radio-Symphonieorchester in Vienna, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and with the London Symphony Orchestra.
She traveled to Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil for sold-out performances of “Candide” (reprising her Grammy Award-winning performance as the Old Lady on the New Worlds label), with Marin Alsop conducting the Sao Paulo Symphony.
The mezzo-soprano celebrated her 40th anniversary as a performing artist in the 2010-2011 season with performances of a new vocal chamber work, “The Hawthorn Tree,” written for her by National Medal of Arts and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom. The cycle was given its premiere with members of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Morgan Library in New York with additional performances elsewhere, including the Lied Center of Kansas with the composer present. Recorded for the Americus label, it was released in fall 2014.
Castle, who joined the KU School of Music in 2001, is a KU graduate with a bachelor of fine arts degree as well as a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, where she earned a master’s of music degree. She was named a university distinguished professor at KU in 2014.
People unable to attend the event will have another opportunity to see Castle perform. KU Opera will present “Strawberry Fields” as well as “Comedy on the Bridge” by Bohuslav Martinu on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24 in Crafton-Preyer Theatre. Both performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students and are available at the door or by calling 785-864-3436.