Review: Festival Napa Valley 2017 Festival of the Stars

There is nowhere else in the world quite like the Napa Valley and no festival quite like Festival Napa Valley.

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Joshua Bell at Far Niente Winery - Photo: Paul E Richardson.

NAPA, CA, August 7, 2017 – Festival Napa Valley is a ten-day celebration of art, music, dance, theater, cuisine and, of course, wine. This 12th annual festival, took place July 14-23, 2017, and was truly a celebration of life.

Festival Napa Valley seamlessly combines the arts of winemaking, culinary expertise. Preeminent classical music performances and breathtaking performing arts collided in a wine country lifestyle meets the big city arts scene, along with exclusive engagements by preeminent classical, opera, and dance artists sort of way.

Opening Night at Meadowood – Photo: Bob McClenahan

Festival Napa Valley continues to exceed already high expectations. Attendees taste the finest cuisine and wine at vintner luncheons and winemaker dinners while rubbing elbows with Napa Valley winemaking elite.

One thing is for sure: guests attending Festival Napa Valley are treated to a spectacular experience that will tease their palates and leave them wanting for more.


Opening Night

The Festival officially kicked off this year at the renowned Meadowood. Guests were greeted with a glass of crisp and refreshing Domaine Carneros sparkling wine as they strolled along the croquet grassy knoll, through a promenade set up on the golf course and ultimately leading to their destination for the evening, an incomparable wine dinner paired with the country’s best operatic duo.

Festival Napa Valley: Opening Night at Meadowood. Photo: Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography

The setting could not have been more perfect. Greenery all around, a giant weeping willow, three mini stages set up around the impromptu outdoor dinner venue, elegant and delicious passed hors d’ouvers, refreshing mixology cocktails and even a caviar bar complete with a vodka ice luge.

It is hard to pick one star of the night; everything from the food to the opera singers to the food was spectacular. A few personal favorites include the caviar bar with Ketel One vodka luge, the Williams Selyem 2014 Woodside Road Neighbors Russian River Valley Pinot noir paired with Duck Confit and the 2014 Realm Cellars “The Bard” Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Ribeye Cap & Eye.

Opening Night at Meadowood – Photo: Bob McClenahan

As far as the performances were concerned, both Danielle de Niese and Paulo Szot belted out some of their favorite pieces, often inspired by their own musical past.

Pianist Jonathan Kelly kept the duo in perfect key as they recalled pieces from classics such as Faust, Don Giovanni and Carmen. As the evening progressed into parts 2 and 3, a few more familiar songs were sung such as I Get a Kick Out of You, Some Enchanted Evening and I Got Rhythm.

New York Times Magazine got it right when they hailed Danielle de Niese as “opera’s coolest soprano.” This gal has spunk and can sing. Keep an eye on her and you’ll see her gushing out her pitch perfect vocals all around the world.

Baritone Paulo Szot is also an international star, garnering acclaim as both an opera singer and an actor. Find him winning Tony Awards on Broadway in shows such as South Pacific and Il Barbiere di Siviglia. San Francisco locals might recognize his powerful voice from his time with the San Francisco opera.

San Francisco locals might recognize his powerful voice from his time with the San Francisco opera.

Joshua Bell performs at Far Niente Winery. Photo: Bob McClenahan

Saturday Night – Day 2

It was going to be pretty tough to top opening night at Meadowood, but somehow Festival Napa Valley continues to deliver at a very high level. Night two saw festival-goers at the stunning Far Niente Winery in Oakville. Upon arrival, the air was still, stiff and a bit stifling. The usual Napa Valley cool evenings had not yet taken over from the relentless heat of the day. Guests were greeted with a refreshing glass of Far Niente Chardonnay, which

Night two saw festival-goers at the stunning Far Niente Winery in Oakville. Upon arrival, the air was still, stiff and a bit stifling. The usual Napa Valley cool evenings had not yet taken over from the relentless heat of the day. Guests were greeted with a refreshing glass of Far Niente Chardonnay, which

Guests were greeted with a refreshing glass of Far Niente Chardonnay, which whets the palate nicely and a brief reprieve from the heat as a very attentive staff served mouth-watering passed bites.

The scenery here is unparalleled. Mountains on either side of the Napa Valley, a perfectly tangerine sunset sky, tree-laden grounds with a charming gazebo, tiny pond and an outdoor concert venue complete the setting.

Violinist Joshua Bell took the stage, along with the Havana Chamber Orchestra. The theme for the evening was Seasons of Cuba.

Festival Napa Valley: Soprano Larisa Martínez performs with Joshua Bell at Far Niente Winery in Seasons of Cuba. Photo: Greg Miller

The Cuban Orchestra is made up of 99% young ladies, showcasing a massive talent that is well beyond their years. Then Bell leads the Havana Chamber Orchestra, pianist Aldo López-Gavilán and soprano Larisa Martínez in a vibrant program that ranges from Vivaldi classics to Piazzolla tangos and beyond. This artistic collaboration, which began in 2016 when Bell traveled to Havana as part of the US government’s inaugural cultural mission to Cuba under President Obama, illustrates cultural diplomacy at its very best.

This artistic collaboration, which began in 2016 when Bell traveled to Havana as part of the US government’s inaugural cultural mission to Cuba under President Obama, illustrates cultural diplomacy at its very best.

Festival Napa Valley: Joyeux Anniversaire at Bouchaine Vineyards – Photo: Bob McClenahan

Overview

One thing is very clear, no matter which events you choose to attend at Festival Napa Valley, all of your senses will be aroused and awaken in a full sensory experience.

There is nowhere else in the world quite like the Napa Valley and no festival quite like Festival Napa Valley. Take pause when you are there to look around, appreciate where you are, what you are watching & listening to and of course, what you are tasting. You will feel truly blessed to be there.

Festival Napa Valley: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler and Friends – New Worlds; Photo: Bob McClenahan

Additional performances from the festival fortnight included the Dance Gala with San Francisco Ballet at Lincoln Theatre, Patron Dinner at CIA at Copia, Vintners Luncheon at Stag’s Leap, Porgy & Bess in Concert starring Lester Lynch and Angel Blue at the Lincoln Theatre, Allegro After Party at Eleven Eleven Winery, Patron Dinner at Quintessa and the Season Finale at Alpha Omega Winery.

Now it’s showtime! Save the date for next year’s festival: July 20-29th, 2018. Visit the festival website for the full schedule and to purchase tickets. Get your tickets and accommodations early as the Napa Valley and the Festival sell out early. The 2018 Season is currently on sale

The 2018 Season is currently on sale with advance purchase through September 4th, 2017. Buy now and save 15% on multi-day passes.

Festival Napa Valley: Patron Dinner at Quintessa. Photo: Bob McClenahan
Festival Napa Valley: American Masters; Watts, Bernstein and Getty. Photo: Paul E. Richardson
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