International violin star Sarah Chang is a self-described “Philly girl” who openly swoons over Festival Napa Valley.
She returns to Lincoln Theater on Tuesday, July 19, to perform Astor Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” with the Festival Orchestra Napa conducted by visiting maestro Joel Revzen.
On the phone from her home in Philadelphia last week, Chang talked about her impressions of Napa Valley’s premier classical music event. “I don’t know of any other festival that celebrates all of the senses so completely,” she said. “Normally when you go to a concert, it’s a wonderful experience, but it’s truly for the ears.
“This is a beautiful place where you have something gorgeous for your eyes. You’ve got the beautiful music for your ears. You’ve got the wine and the food. You’re exploring all of the senses of taste and sound and sight.”
A child prodigy in the third decade of a heralded career, Chang is committed to inspiring young people and perpetuating an audience for classical music.
“A big part of it is just exposure,” she said. “I’m in this program with the U.S. Embassy. They very kindly gave me the title of artistic ambassador. I go to countries all over the world, give my concerts and then stay a few extra days and visit schools, play for the kids, give master classes, do a Q&A.
“In some of these places, children haven’t had the opportunity to touch a violin or they’ve never seen a piano before. They’ve never listened to a Mozart concerto or a Beethoven symphony, they just haven’t been exposed to it. I think our responsibility as musicians, all of us, is to make sure that we bring the music into the classrooms and to those who might not have the opportunity to go see a concert.”
Symphony conductor Revzen is as passionate as Chang about bringing classical music to the next generation. “If we do our job, they will get hooked,” he said. “I believe firmly that if you really bring music to life off the page in a viscerally compelling way, they’ll get it. At any age. All you have to do is get them in the door to try it.
“For 10 years, I was the head of the opera in Arizona. Of course, Arizona is a lot of retirees but also it ended up becoming a date night for people between the ages of 19 and 22. A big date night. Even in Fargo, North Dakota, we used to sell out our young people’s concerts in a 1,000- seat hall before we ever opened. All young people.”
Revzen has a long distinguished career as a symphony and opera conductor in North America and Europe. He is in his 11th season on the conducting staff of the Metropolitan Opera, has been honored as the conductor laureate of the Arizona Opera, and is the artistic director and conductor of Classical Tahoe, whose summer season commences shortly after Festival Napa Valley.
Festival Orchestra Napa, which is drawn largely from Revzen’s Tahoe orchestra, gets the highest praise from the conductor. “This is the best orchestra I’ve ever worked with in my life,” Revzen said. “It’s the best because everyone is hand-picked.
“We have 17 players from the Met Orchestra, eight of them principal players, first chair. The rest are principals, associates, assistant principals from L.A. and New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Dallas, Seattle, Vancouver, Philadelphia. It’s absolutely fair to consider them all-stars.”
Tuesday, July 19, 6 p.m. $69-$149. Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater at 100 California Dr., Yountville. 707-346-5052. FestivalNapaValley.org.