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Performing artists from five continents and 24 cities are gathering this week in the Napa Valley.

Count among them Joshua Bell of Bloomington, Indiana, Aldo Lopez-Gavilan for Havana, Cuba, and Helgi Tomasson of Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. Also Bill Murray of Evanston, Illinois, Andre Watts from Nuremberg, Germany, Nikoay Khozyainov of Blagoveshchensk, Russia. Danielle de Niese of Melbourne, Australia is coming to Napa, so is Vanessa Perez of Caracas, Venezuela, Jiji from Seoul, South Korea, and Laura Hamilton of Livermore, Calif.

Festival Napa Valley, which began 12 years ago as Festival del Sole, has become the 10 dazzling days of summer.

The festival opens on Friday, July 14, with a gala at Meadowood Resort, featuring the celebrated Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot performing with de Niese, an Australian-American lyric soprano.

What follows are nine days filled with performances by international classical, jazz, ballet and opera stars, paired with parties, lunches and dinners at wineries and restaurants, displaying the best of the valley.

Among the highlights this year are performances by the Havana Chamber Orchestra and the festival debut by actor/comedian Bill Murray who, with cellist Jan Vogler, will perform the U.S. debut of “New Worlds from Hemingway to Bach,” described as “an evening of music and words.”

While most of the tickets and passes are sold out, Festival Napa Valley has held back a limited number of prime tickets for Napa residents.

Tickets are available for:

Taste of Napa, Saturday, July 15, 11 a.m. $99. More than 70 local restaurants, wineries and food artisans provide fare for a walk-around tasting. This event features live music by three local bands who won the festival’s Battle of the Bands contest (chosen by popular vote): Serf & James (first place), Drop Dead Dangerous (second place) and The Deadlies (third place). To purchase tickets visit

Some two-for-one Festival Quattro Allegro passes are available for locals. Locals can buy one pair of two-for-one Allegro Passes for July 19, 20, 21 and 22 concerts. Use the code “local” to get the 2-for-1 offer.

These concerts include:

American Masters Watts, Bernstein & Getty, Wednesday, July 19, 6 p.m., at the Lincoln Theater.

Legendary pianist André Watts, celebrated for his lyricism and mastery of classical and Romantic repertoire, joins conductor Joel Revzen, the Festival Orchestra Napa, and the Festival Napa Valley Volti Chorale for an all-American night of music.

Watts gained international fame when he stepped in at 16 for an ailing Glenn Gould to play Liszt with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. Accompanied by maestro Revzen and an orchestra of musicians from New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony and other top ensembles, Watts will perform Edward McDowell’s 1885 Piano Concerto No. 2.

The program also features the Napa premiere of Gordon Getty’s powerful choral work, “Young America” and two Bernstein pieces, “On the Town” and the “Candide Overture.”

Tickets may be purchased just for the concert, from $45, or for the concert and after party at Napa Distillery ($169)

Dance Gala: San Francisco Ballet, Friday, July 21, 6 p.m. at Lincoln Theater:

America’s oldest professional ballet company, San Francisco Ballet, created the first American productions of “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker,” and has commissioned and premiered works by leading contemporary choreographers including Mark Morris, William Forsythe, and Christopher Wheeldon. Helgi Tomasson is artistic director and principal choreographer.

“Porgy & Bess” George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin are in concert starring Angel Blue and Lester Lynch, conducted by Joel Revzen, 5:30 p.m., Lincoln Theater.

Considered by many to be America’s greatest opera, Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” a 1935 work based on librettist DuBose Heyward’s novel about a disabled beggar in a poor African-American section of Charleston, includes classic songs as “Summertime,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “I Loves You,” “Porgy and Bess,” and “You Is My Woman Now.” This concert version features baritone Lester Lynch, who recently sang the role of Crown at Opéra de Montréal and with the Berlin Philharmonic, and soprano Angel Blue, a protégé of Plácido Domingo recognized for her beautiful timbre, who will star as Bess in an upcoming production at the Metropolitan Opera.

Choose from just the concert, beginning at $59, or for the concert and after party at Eleven Eleven ($249).

Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater is at 100 California Drive in Yountville.

Arts for All

Beneath the glamour of the annual arts extravaganza, and the pleasure of eating, drinking and listening to the Havana Chamber Orchestro, lies a lesser-known purpose: a year-round program of “arts for all” in Napa Valley. Central to the Festival’s mission is supporting arts in the Napa County’s public schools, with the proceeds from events, like the Arts for All Gala. Since 2012, the Festival has awarded more than $850,000 in grants for visual and performing arts education programs, including materials for classrooms, tickets to concerts for students, and scholarships for young musicians.

Napa County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Nemko has said the Festival “is transforming education in Napa County.”

Under the leadership of general manager Sonia Tolbert, a resident of Napa, the festival continues to expand its “Arts for All” mission. She said they have been able to make one in every four seats for festival concerts free for low-income families, veterans and seniors.

“Napa County’s demographic is diverse,” Tolbert said. “We always wanted the festival to be for everybody, and for benefits to be felt beyond two weeks in July.”

The Music Academy

New this year is a Festival Napa Valley Music Academy, a tuition-free summer conservatory, hosted by Napa Valley College, for 70 up-and-coming young musicians, who will form the Academy Orchestra and perform at the festival.

“Festival Napa Valley has presents hundreds of internationally renowned musicians and artists over the past 12 years,” said festival president Rick Walker. “Offering a formal training opportunity for the next generation of musicians is a natural evolution for the festival.”

For updated information about Festival Napa Valley, check

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