Festival of the Sun rises again

Festival del Sole is a music festival featuring some of the world’s most acclaimed artists, an event worthy of any major metropolis. This week, it comes to little Napa (population 75,000) and vicin?ity for its second season, running Friday through July 22. Festivities open with a concert featuring mezzo-soprano Frederica Von Stade, flutists Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway and sopranos Marnie Breckenridge and Melody Moore.

It was only last year that IMG Artists owner Barrett Wissman and his wife, the renowned cellist Nina Kotova, extended their Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, Italy, for the first time to another famed wine-growing region, Napa Valley. The 2006 premiere season was astonishingly successful, putting the event on the world map of festivals, notwithstanding century-plus temperatures and some high prices to m?atch.

The eight-day-long event offers recitals, orchestral concerts, an opera performance in the new Castello di Amorosa, art exhibits, festive meals and cooking classes by some of the region’s top chefs and, of course, Napa wines.

The festival’s “house band” is the Russian National Orchestra, a 16-year-old organization, financed mostly fromoutside Russia, by such donors as San Francisco’s Gordon Getty and Seattle’s Charles Simonyi (who has recently returned from a private space journey). Instrumental in the development of the RNO is Festival del Sole co-founder and co-director Richard Walker, a Walnut Creek lawyer. Kotova is the other co-director and a featured artist of the festival.

Conductors include San Francisco Opera’s music director designate Nicola Luisotti, the Royal Opera House’s Antonio Pappano, Philharmonia Baroque’s Nicholas McGegan and Stéphane Denève. Among the soloists not already mentioned: soprano Danielle De Niese, countertenor David Daniels, violinists Joshua Bell, Dmitry Sitkovetsky and Nicolaj Znaider; pianists Fabio Bidini, Christopher Taylor, Piotr Anderszewski, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

The festival’s main venue is the recently renovated, 1,200-seat Lincoln Theater on the grounds of the Yountville Veterans Home, a 550-acre facility in use since its post-Civil War establishment in 1884.

The $22 million reconstruction, managed by Michael Savage — also responsible for fixing up the Napa Opera House a?nd supervising the $92 million San Francisco War Memorial Opera House rebuilding project after the Loma Prieta quake — resulted in a glossy finish over what is still a simple, boxy structure, with the addition of an impressive lobby.

Other festival venues include the Napa Valley Museum, Calistoga Ranch, COPIA, Clos Pegase Winery, Sherwood Estate, Napa Valley Opera House, Moulds Estate, St. Supery Vineyards, Pine Ridge Winery, Villa Mille Rose, Far Niente and more.

IF YOU GO

Festival del Sole Opening Concert

Where: Lincoln Theater, 100 California Drive, Yountville
When: 6 p.m?. Friday
Tickets: $45 to $125
Contact: (707) 944-1300 or festivaldelsole.com for the full schedule

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