Festival del Sole
Robert Redford, Sibylle Szaggars Redford, and Barrett Wissman at Festival del Sole in Cortona, Italy | Credit: J. Henry Fair

Barrett Wissman and Nina Kotova — who originated Festival del Sole in Italy in 2003 and brought the venture to Napa three years later, leaving in 2016 (more on that below) — are returning to the area this summer.

Coming from Rome, where they run the Domus Artium concert series in some of the city’s historic homes and palaces, Wissman and Kotova are reviving Festival del Sole in a chamber version this year, Aug. 1–4 at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. Festival del Sole and Domus Artium are entirely separate endeavors.

The plan is for performances by Kotova, violinist Viktoria Mullova, and pianist Olga Kern (Aug. 1), violinist Pinchas Zukerman and his trio (Aug. 2), and tenor Joseph Calleja (Aug. 3).

On Aug. 4, Festival del Sole will present a screening of Sibylle Szaggars Redford’s The Way of the Rain, with narration by Robert Redford. The Redfords will attend the presentation of this multidisciplinary work about the formation of the universe, the evolution of galaxies, and the eventual birth of planet Earth.

Nina Kotova
Cellist Nina Kotova is artistic director of Festival del Sole

Wissman told SF Classical Voice:

“I am so excited to launch the Festival del Sole in the wine country, bringing back the combination of extraordinary music-making, programming, and talent that has always been a hallmark of the events and festivals I have founded around the world.

“We will bring together the best in music alongside wine and culinary events, film projects, and visual art exhibitions and collaborations. It makes me very proud to work again with Sibylle Szaggars Redford and Robert Redford, reestablishing our decades-long collaborative friendship.”

Wissman and Napa Valley attorney Rick Walker were co-founders of Festival del Sole in its first Bay Area iteration, bringing renowned soloists, orchestras, dancers, and promising young talent to Napa and staging performances in some of the area’s luxurious venues and famous vineyards. They had support from such Bay Area benefactors as Gordon Getty and Dede Wilsey.

After several successful seasons, Wissman — chairman and later owner of the management company IMG Artists — was charged with securities fraud (unrelated to the festival) and pled guilty to a charge that was subsequently reduced to a misdemeanor. After Wissman left the festival as its director, Walker took over, and the name of the organization was changed in 2016 to Festival Napa Valley.

Wissman fostered a strong connection between Festival del Sole and IMG, whose clients have included, at various times, Hilary Hahn, Joshua Bell, Julia Fischer, Renée Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Evgeny Kissin, Murray Perahia, Antonio Pappano, Vladimir Jurowski, Franz Welser-Möst, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic with Yuri Temirkanov, the Oslo Philharmonic with André Previn, the Emerson String Quartet, and many more. The festival and IMG parted ways eight years after Wissman left.

Correction: This article previously stated that Barrett Wissman was found guilty of a charge, when in fact he pled guilty to one charge that was later reduced to a misdemeanor. The text of the article has been corrected. We regret the error.