Festival Napa Valley Returns, Celebrating 15 Years of Alfresco Concerts

Jennifer Hudson and Roberto Bolle will perform live among the vines at the 10-day outdoor cultural nirvana

Words by ELIZABETH VARNELL

 

A sunset dinner at Opus One, lunch beside climbing vines at Gargiulo Vineyards, Roberto Bolle leaping across the stage at Charles Krug, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet at Darioush and Jennifer Hudson’s soaring vocals at Nickel and Nickel all top the menu at this year’s Festival Napa Valley. The ten-day musical, culinary and oenological tour de force, now in its 15th year, is serving up a full program of outdoor events throughout the valley with admission-free daytime concerts and $15 tickets for evening performances on the Krug stage and at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia from Friday, July 16 to Sunday, July 25. “With such an abundance of breathtaking winery settings and consistently perfect weather, the festival was able to seamlessly and quickly pivot to make 2021 an all-outdoor year that we will never forget,” says Charles Letourneau, vice president and director of artistic planning.

 

The opening ceremony of FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY.

 

Violinist Joshua Bell and the Russian National Orchestra kicked off the festival’s very first concert season in 2006, under its former moniker, Festival del Sole, and the past decade and a half has included dinners prepared by Thomas Keller and Michael Chiarello and standout performances including Renée Fleming’s recital at Castello di Amorosa and the world premiere of Bill Murray’s “New Worlds” with the actor reading American classics with a chamber ensemble. Then there was the power failure in 2007, cutting short conductor Stéphane Denève’s orchestra performance — one he finished five years later! In 2010, conductor Carlo Ponti led the Russian National Orchestra in composer Gordon Getty’s choral works and this year’s opening night recital with soprano Lisette Oropesa is dedicated to his late wife, Ann Getty.

 

Ballet dancer Roberto Bolle. Photo by Paola Kudacki.

 

“With such an abundance of breathtaking winery settings and consistently perfect weather, the festival was able to seamlessly and quickly pivot to make 2021 an all-outdoor year that we will never forget”

Charles Letourneau

 

This year, Novack Concerts for Kids bring together Napa public school students and area Boys and Girls Clubs, while events will be streamed to hospitals and assisted living facilities. Festival initiatives also include an immersive summer conservatory, the Blackburn Music Academy, alongside a new conducting fellowship, scholarships for emerging singers, and a partnership with the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music.

 

Twinkle lights illuminate an alfresco dinner.

 

The festival setting, amid a vineyard-dotted valley surrounded by mountains, has always lent itself to outdoor performances, from symphonic concerts to opera, dance, chamber music and jazz, and this year’s alfresco schedule includes some inventive pairings in addition to Bolle, Thibaudet and Hudson’s performances. Conductor Kent Nagano makes his festival debut this year, leading Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi — directed by Jean-Romain Vesperini and starring baritone Lucas Meachem — part of the event’s inaugural Manetti Shrem opera program. The one-act comic opera based on part of Dante’s Divine Comedy contains the beloved aria “O mio babbino caro.” Also, the Mondavi family’s Krug winery is hosting a must-see performance by Michael Feinstein alongside Napa Valley composer-in-residence Nia Imani Franklin, Wé McDonald, Jordan Donica and Jane Monheit in tribute to Tony Bennett and his mastery of the American Songbook. Be prepared to leave your heart in San Francisco, post-concert.

 

Conductor Kent Nagano. Photo by Antoine Saito.

 

Feature Image: Dinner en plein air during FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY.

 

July 14, 2021

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