Tenor Nico Castel was born Naftali Chaim Castel Kalinhoff in Lisbon on 1 August 1931 and grew up in Venezuela in a multilingual family. He studied voice in Caracas and at the University of Mainz in Germany, then moved to New York City.
Winning the 'Joy in Singing' Award and its recital at the New York City Town Hall launched his singing career, making his debut with Santa Fe Opera the same year, with New York City Opera in 1965 and at New York Metropolitan Opera in 1970. He continued to give nearly eight hundred performances at The Met, and also worked there as the staff diction coach. His repertoire included more than two hundred operatic roles, and he sang in many different countries.
He spoke English, French, German, Italian, Ladino, Portuguese and Spanish with near-native fluency. He wrote A Singer's Manual of Spanish Lyric Diction and made many translations of opera libretti, annotated with phonetic pronuciation guides in each opera's original language.
He taught, lectured and led masterclasses at various universities and music conservatories around the world.
Nico Castel died in New York City on 31 May 2015, aged eighty-three.