Napa’s Festival del Sole, a celebration of music, theater, dance and regional food and wine, celebrated its ninth season this July with 10 beautiful days of awe-inspiring performances and mouth-watering gastronomic experiences.
On opening night, guests were treated to “poet of the violin” Joshua Bell performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Sphinx Virtuosi orchestra. After the concert, festival patrons descended through Castello di Amorosa’s wine caves and secret passageways to an intimate candlelit dinner in the expansive barrel room. Dinner by Napa Valley chef Shannon Kelly was paired with vintages from the winery’s impressive library.
Performances and one-of-a-kind dining experiences continued throughout the week, including a concert conducted by Maestra Alondra de la Parra featuring world renowned violinist Pinchas Zukerman and the tenor James Valenti.
The seventh day brought a spectacular performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti—the festival’s first chamber opera. A Patron’s Dinner followed at Alpha Omega winery hosted by owners Robin and Michelle Baggett. Breaking out their BBQ equipment, the Baggett’s held an “upscale, down-home” evening.
The next day, Tiffany & Co. hosted a “Shades of Brilliance” luncheon at Auberge du Soleil featuring dazzling jewels with Chief Gemologist Melvyn Kirtley at the ready to speak on behalf of the glittering baubles. That same night, the festivals Dance Gala welcomed the American Ballet Theatre’s Polina Semionova and principal dancers from StaatsBallet Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet and National Ballet of Canada, performing passages from Swan Lake, Onegin and Sleeping Beauty, among others. Dinner—once again a feast for the eyes and stomach—was held at Hall’s St. Helena winery.
All good things must come to an end, but this finale was beyond anything the festival (and possibly Napa Valley) has ever witnessed. San Francisco’s unwieldy force of nature Italian-born philanthropist Maria Manetti Shrem and her husband Jan Shrem commissioned American composer Daniel Brewbaker to create Sinfonietta per Sofia in celebration of Sophia Loren’s life and career. Using her performances as inspiration, Brewbaker explained: “I found myself thinking of the scenes…I watched upwards of thirty films in the last few months. If there was one word to describe the influence of Sophia Loren, it would be soulfulness.”
The evening, which took place on the picturesque grounds of Far Niente, began with the performance of Brewbaker’s Sinfonietta. It was conducted by Loren’s son, Carlo Ponti Jr., and his LA Virtuosi—an ensemble founded this year that is devoted to advocacy and support of music education. “It’s a wonderful piece,” Ponti announced with pride. “It features different moods which I can relate to my mother—passion, warmth, dedication and effervescence.”
Following the concert, guests moved into the largest tent Far Niente ever had constructed for a multi-course dinner prepared by Chef Michael Chiarello and Piero Selvaggio. Master of Ceremonies Whoopi Goldberg shared the inspiration Loren had on her life and career. Reminiscing about accepting her Academy Award with Loren in the audience, Goldberg recalled looking to the elder Oscar winner during her speech and saying: “This is because of you!”
DuJour was granted an intimate audience with the icon, who at 80 is still as stunning in person as she is on screen.
What does it mean for you to be here this evening, to be honored in this way?
It’s unique for me. It’s wonderful, one of the most beautiful nights of my life. Life goes very rapidly.
Your other son, Eduardo, directed you in the recently released “La Voce Umana.” I believe that Roberto Rossellini’s 1948 film, “L’Amoure” was the inspiration for you to become an actress?
“The Human Voice” has been done by many actresses. As a matter of fact, the film with Anna Magnani is not just “The Human Voice.” It’s a long film with two episodes, so it’s a bit distracting. Ours is more concentrated. I think it’s something—if you love your profession—your main goal is to do “The Human Voice,” and it becomes like a nightmare. When you are very young you cannot do it because you need to have a certain age to be able to play that roll. But when you reach that age, and you are able to do it in every way, then it’s a great pleasure. I’m very happy to have done it.
I saw the trailer and there is no voce, just snippets of scenes and music, which was extremely frustrating!
(Laughs) Umana and no voce! We showed it at Cannes and the Tribeca [Film Festival], and it’s on its way.
What are you working on now?
Showing my film, and I’m reading some scripts. For me, working was like school because I didn’t go to acting school. But now that I know the craft, I think about [prospective roles] and just like to do the things I really want to do. But [those roles] are not easy to find.