July 5-11, 2006

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Renee Fleming

Brava! Renée Fleming embodies 'diva' as it was intended.

Star Power

Classical music elite shine at Napa festival

By Greg Cahill

Call it Lollapalooza for the Brie and Merlot set. The first Festival del Sole promises to light up the North Bay cultural scene this summer with some of the classical and opera worlds' brightest talent at a weeklong series that also showcases the region's food and wine industry while benefiting education programs.

The ambitious event, slated for July 16-23 in the Napa Valley, was created by the Del Sole Arts and Humanities Foundation, and is inspired by the organization's annual Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, Italy.

Among those scheduled to perform at Festival del Sole are opera singers Renée Fleming, Anne Sofie von Otter, Frederica von Stade and Samuel Ramey; violinists Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Nikolaj Znaider and cellist Nina Kotova; pianists Piotr Anderszewski and Christopher Taylor; and the Emerson String Quartet. The Russian National Orchestra will be in residence throughout the week.

Stephane Deneve and Carlo Ponti Jr. will serve as guest conductors. Alan Gilbert will act as opera director. Musical performances will take place at the lavish Lincoln Theater, the Napa Valley Opera House and various local vineyards and outdoor amphitheatres, and will be paired with lunches or dinners.

Indeed, the region's celebrated culinary and viticulture offerings will take center stage at several associated gatherings. Among the food and wine events is an opening-night dinner at the Rutherford estate of Craig and Kathryn Hall, featuring the cuisine of celebrity chef Ming Tsai; a patron's luncheon at the French Laundry restaurant; a Russian imperial dinner at Bouchaine Vineyards; a dinner at Beringer Vineyards co-prepared by a guest chef from Tuscany, and accompanied by wines from Beringer Vineyards and Castello di Gabbiano; and a luncheon with opera star Renée Fleming at Maria Manetti Farrow's Oakville estate.

Other highlights include performances, luncheons, receptions and dinners at COPIA, Far Niente, Quintessa, Gargiulo Vineyards, Darioush Winery, the White Barn, Palmaz Vineyards, the Napa Valley Reserve, Robert Mondavi Winery and Domaine Chandon, among others.

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone will host a cooking class and lunch with Cat Cora, the first and only female winner of the Food Network's popular Iron Chef program, which will also include Tuscan chef Silvia Baracchi. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry will host a conversation with several guests. Citronelle master chef Michel Richard, and other guest chefs, will contribute dishes to the various culinary events.

Paintings by local artist Ana Corbero will be on display at the Napa Valley Museum, which will host an opening night gala reception on July 16.

But the concerts--featuring the cream of the opera, orchestral, recital, and chamber music worlds--promise plenty of opportunity for dazzling performances, some of which will be held in the intimate Lincoln Theater in Yountville, an 1800s vintage hall that reopened in 2005 following a four-year, $20 million renovation.

The music portion of the festival kicks off in grand style when mezzo-soprano von Otter and violinist Bell, who won an Oscar for his contribution to the film score to The Red Violin, perform an orchestral program of Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Bizet on Sunday, July 16, at 6:30pm, at the Lincoln Theater. Tickets are $45-$125.

Taylor offers a piano recital of Messiaen works on Monday, July 17, at 7pm, at the Napa Valley Opera House. Tickets are $50.

Opera stars von Stade and Ramey present a program that will range from Berlioz to Rodgers and Hammerstein, on Wednesday, July 19, at 8pm, at the Lincoln Theater. Tickets are $45-$125.

The Emerson String Quartet, arguably the world's finest string quartet, will perform chamber works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich on Thursday, July 20, at 8pm, at the Napa Valley Opera House. Tickets are $75.

Swiss violinist Znaider and pianist Anderszewski present an orchestral concert, with Deneve conduction, of Ravel, Szymanowski, Sibelius and others on Friday, July 21, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45-$125.

Violinist Chang and Anderszewski join forces at an orchestral concert of Dvorak, Mozart and Vivaldi on Saturday, July 22, at 6pm, at the Lincoln Theater. Tickets are $45-$125.

The festival concludes with orchestral performances of Dvorak, Straus and others by soprano Fleming and cellist Kotova on Sunday, July 23, at 6:30pm, at the Lincoln Theater. Tickets are $45-$150.

For complete schedule and ticket info, visit

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