Festival del Sole concerts showcase scenic Napa Valley 

From the opening concert and dinner at the Darioush Winery last weekend to the sold-out closing night July 24 at Cardinale Winery, the sixth annual Festival del Sole offers a dizzying variety of Napa Valley’s most spectacular scenery and world-famous wines.

Richard Walker, the Marin attorney who is the co-founder and head of the festival, waxes poetic about the event.

“The Darioush night was beyond description,” Walker says. “The summer breeze through the palm trees surrounding the amphitheater at Darioush’s modern Persepolis blended with the sound of Angel Romero’s guitar and Tara Kamangar’s piano.”

Guests — including Donna Summer, David Foster and Babyface — were said to be spellbound.

The range of Festival del Sole includes such luxurious events and free concerts featuring young musicians. On Monday, festival mainstay Russian National Orchestra joined the U.S. Army to provide brass quintets in a joint program of classical and jazz music in the Napa Opera House, including Russian and American popular songs from the World War II era.

Since the birth of contemporary music festivals — probably with the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 — hundreds of them sprung up around the world, but chances are the Tuscan Sun Festival and its Festival del Sole twin in Napa offer the greatest mix of music, dance, landscapes graced by castles and vineyards, visual arts, food and wine — and more wine. This year, more than 60 wineries are participating.

Festival founders Barrett Wissman and cellist Nina Kotova started it all in 2003 in the medieval Italian town of Cortona with the idea of “friends making music together in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.” That atmosphere also happens to be historical and gorgeous.

The same ideas and adjectives describe Festival del Sole, started in 2006 by Walker in cooperation with Wissman and Kotova. (Singapore’s Sun Festival was added in 2007.)

In one of the area’s most dramatic settings, the medieval Castello di Amorosa, Sarah Chang and Kotova are featured Thursday in music by Bernstein and Boccherini. The Russian National Orchestra also is performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, under the baton of Omer Wellber making his U.S. debut. Chang and Kotova return to the castle for an evening of chamber music, along with pianist Joyce Yang and soprano Nino Machaidze. Both events are sold out.

Sponsored by Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco board Chairman (and part-time Napa Valley resident) Dede Wilsey, first-class ballet is featured at the festival for the second year in Yountville’s Lincoln Theater.

Featured dancers include Maxim Beloserkovsky and Irina Dvorovenko of American Ballet Theatre; Charles Askegard and Wendy Whelan of New York City Ballet; Vitor Luiz and Lorena Feijoo of San Francisco Ballet; and Marianna Ryzhkina, Denis Medvedev and Mikhail Kryuchkov of Bolshoi Ballet.

“The program features both great classics and a number of newer works, which demonstrate the vitality and dynamism of ballet,” Walker says.

Among them are Yuri Possokhov’s “Talk to Her,” Alberto Iglesias’ score for Pedro Almodovár’s 2002 film of the same name, and Vladimir Vasiliev’s “The Oath of Ushers,” set to a movement of Gordon Getty’s “Ancestor Suite,” which debuted to great acclaim at the Bolshoi Theater in 2009.


Festival del Sole

- Recital by guitarist Matthew Lyons, 11 a.m. Friday; Jarvis Conservatory, 1711 Main St., Napa; free
- Ballet gala, 6 p.m. Friday; Lincoln Theater, Yountville; $35 to $65
- Romeo & Juliet in Music, Theater and Dance, 4 p.m. Saturday; Lincoln Theater, Yountville; $35 to $65
- Aleksandra Kurzak and Francesco Demuro with the Russian National Orchestra, 4 p.m. Sunday; Lincoln Theater, Yountville; $35 to $65

Contact for all events: (888) 337-6272, www.festivaldelsole.org

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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