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Hitting The High Notes, With A Burst Of Sole

by July Westhale

Festival del Sole 2014 will kick off in the solé-saturated Napa Valley on July 11, and it will run through July 20. Lauded as “one of the country’s most compelling summer celebrations,” the famous ten-day festival features world-class classical music, jazz, opera, theater, and ballet, along with curated wines from the renowned valley, top-notch regional food, and events that celebrate the vibrancy and joie de vivre of summertime. Organized almost exclusively by volunteers and Napa Valley enthusiasts, the festival has become a must-see destination event for multitudes, the world over.

The festival begins every year with an opening night concert and dinner, and this year’s opening night patron dinner at the grand Castillo di Amorosa will be sponsored by the Nob Hill Gazette.  The opening night concert will feature Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell, whose talent and reputation as a rock star of the classical world precedes him.  His appearance this year is described thus:  “Equally at ease playing to sold-out concert halls across the globe as he is recording the Oscar-winning soundtrack for the film, The Red Violin, Bell has straddled both popular and classical stardom. Bell and the Sphinx Virtuosi will perform one of the most beloved classical music pieces ever written, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.”

Following the concert, patrons will be led through the castle’s candlelit caves, secret passageways, and famous torture chambers to an elaborate banquet featuring food by culinary mastermind Shannon Kelly, a chef renowned in the Napa Valley for his skills and French training, to be accompanied by a selection of wines from the Amorosa estate. The opening night dinner has long been a favorite component of the festival, and a perfect way to start off ten days of wine, local events, and song. Walker says, “There is great joy in getting together on a beautiful summer night in this stunning castle, at a reception on a terrace looking over Napa Valley. It’s a great way of launching the festival. To see an artist of Joshua Bell’s stature performing in an intimate environment is part of what is unique and special about this festival.”

The festival will also highlight other live music, including the LA Virtuosi chamber orchestra, an ensemble devoted to the advocacy and support of music education, founded and conducted by Carlo Ponti, Jr. He will be honoring his mother, Sophia Loren, during Bella Italia!, which will be the festival’s tribute to the legendary actress, along with world-famous stars of stage and screen (at Far Niente on July 19).

    Go to for the complete calendar of events. 

July Westhale is a Pushcart & Fulbright-nominated writer living in Oakland, California. She has been awarded fellowships from Tin House, Bread Loaf, Dairy Hollow, and the Lambda Literary Foundation for her work in poetry and has been nominated for The Best of the Net for her online journalism.

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