Senior Ian Castro has been accepted with a full scholarship by The Juilliard School in New York City for graduate studies in opera performance.
“Ian’s achievement, a first for the Cali Voice program, is also an acknowledgement of the rising prestige of voice training at Montclair State,” says Jeffrey Gall, Director of Opera and Professor of Music at the University’s John J. Cali School of Music.
Castro’s teacher, Professor Stephen Oosting, describes him as a lyric tenor whose voice has a lot of presence and a unique range and color. “There is a tremendous amount of energy in his sound,” he says.
“He came out of the Musical Theatre program into the Opera program after he realized his voice is better suited to opera,” Oosting says. “He made a remarkable transition over three-and-a-half years and is the finest student I’ve had in all my years of teaching, in terms of work ethic, application – plus the nature of his voice.” Oosting notes that Castro recently sang for celebrated tenor and general director of the Los Angeles Opera Plácido Domingo – who invited him to sing for him again in two years.
Castro spent about four months preparing for auditions at six different graduate programs in five different states over a month and a half. “This, in my opinion, is a comical amount of time for an eight-minute audition slot,” he says.
Yet his preparations paid off. While he was also accepted and offered full scholarships by graduate programs in Houston and Cincinnati, he ultimately elected to attend Juilliard as a full-time student beginning in the fall semester.
“I’m looking forward to the performance opportunities both New York and Juilliard have to offer,” Castro says. “I’m also looking forward to working with Dr. Edith Wiens, who will be my voice teacher. I’m happy to get a head start working with her this summer as well, while I’m attending her program in Germany at the Internationale Meistersinger Akademie.”
As a student at Montclair State, Castro appeared in University opera productions of Maurice Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortileges, Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, as well as in various campus opera workshop performances. Giving back to the community is also important to Castro, who has performed in concerts to raise money for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.
“I’ve also always had an affinity for the works of Donizetti,” Castro confesses. “I’ve sung excerpts and arias from Lucia di Lammermoor and L’elisir d’amore before. His works sit very naturally in my voice and the operas, whether comedic or serious, stand as some of the most beautiful works of art in the repertoire.”
Oosting agrees that Donizetti and lighter Verdi operas are good fits for the young tenor. “What’s interesting is that he also has a voice that fits in the French repertoire as a Romeo or Faust,” he says.
Castro’s dream role? Tackling Massenet’s Werther in the future. “The music, story and language allow so much heart-wrenching emotion to pour out of every musical line – which solidifies it as one of my favorite operas,” he explains.