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Festival del Sole brings its golden glow to Napa Valley

Sunrise over Napa
Sunrise over NapaVi Bottaro

The Napa Valley Festival del Sole opens this week, hosting once again a unique 10-day celebration of culture against a backdrop of some of the most beautiful estates in the region.

This 9th annual Festival - one of America’s premier music and lifestyle festivals - features a line-up of international stars from the world of classical music, jazz, ballet and opera - together with culinary delights, fine wine and a series of wellness events, in homage to ‘the art of life’.

The Festival opens, in the courtyard of the Tuscan-style Castello di Amorosa, with an performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by one of the most celebrated violinists of his time, Joshua Bell. Also a conductor, Mr Bell has recently taken over from Sir Neville Marriner as Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields - the first person to hold this post since Sir Neville formed the orchestra in 1958.

The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra - the world’s only all Black and Latino professional orchestra - makes its West Coast debut this year as the festival’s orchestra-in-residence. The ensemble will be led by Mexican conductor, Alondra de la Parra, founder and artistic director of the New York-based Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, and currently artistic director of the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ms de la Parra and the orchestra will appear with master violinist, conductor and chamber musician, Pinchas Zukerman - making his Festival debut - and tenor James Valenti. Mr Zukerman will also perform with two members of the Zukerman ChamberPlayers at Castello di Amorosa, in a program of music by Beethoven, De Falla, Franck and Mendelssohn.

The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra - conducted by Michael Barrett - will make another appearance in the Festival’s first full length chamber opera - Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti - a one-act work directed by the composer’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein. The cast includes soprano Ann Moss, tenor Brian Thorsett, baritone Igor Vieira, mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson and baritone Matthew Worth. Michael Barrett is co-founder and associate artistic director of the critically acclaimed New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), and also the Artists Advisor for the Caramoor International Music Festival.

Conductor Carlo Ponti leads the Los Angeles Virtuosi in its debut performance, at Lincoln Theater and at Far Niente, in a special tribute to the life and career of his mother, Sophia Loren. Maestro Ponti, who has served as associate conductor of the Russian National Orchestra since 2000, formed the Los Angeles Virtuosi earlier this year, an ensemble with a focus on the educational value of music, and on giving back to the community.

In a Dance Gala at Lincoln Theater, Polina Semionova, Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre, heads a cast of dancers from ABT, the Bolshoi Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Berlin Staatsballett and Stuttgart Ballet. Included in the program are pas de deux from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Onegin and The Sleeping Beauty; Weber’s Le Spectre de la Rose and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

The Annual Gala at Meadowood features Cuban jazz trumpeter, and classical pianist and composer, Arturo Sandoval, in an evening which includes a live auction in support of the Festival and local arts education programs. Sandoval is a ten-times Grammy Award-winner, and also winner of an Emmy, an award which he won for the score of For Love or Country the HBO film based on his life, starring Andy Garcia.

The closing performance of the Festival, the Opera Gala, will feature soprano Maria Agresta and tenor Matthew Polenzani, performing arias and duets from operas by Rossini, Massenet, Verdi, Charpentier, Bellini, Gounod and Puccini. The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra will once again be conducted by Carlo Ponti.

The Festival del Sole runs from July 11 to 20. For more information visit the website www.festivaldelsole.org, where the detailed schedule can also be found.