Music and Movie Stars, Chefs and Winemakers Come Together for New Sonoma County Festival

Originating in Italy and later moving to Napa Valley, Festival del Sole will land in Sonoma County this August at the Green Music Center.

This summer, Northern California welcomes the return of Festival del Sole, which will be held at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University from Aug. 1 to 4.

The event, presented in collaboration with arts entrepreneur and pianist Barrett Wissman, will feature a lineup of international musicians, wine events and an exclusive gala dinner and auction, which will welcome actor Robert Redford and his wife, multimedia environmental artist Sibylle Szaggars Redford.

Originating in the 1990s in Italy, Festival del Sole was conceived by Wissman and his wife, cellist Nina Kotova, as an event where friends could gather to make music in a welcoming atmosphere.

Barrett Wissman
Barrett Wissman, concert pianist and co-founder of Festival del Sole. (Courtesy of Festival del Sole)

The couple, who were living in Italy at the time, frequented a 19th-century theater in Cortona, Tuscany, that used to screen movies one day a week on Sundays. “Back then, there were spiderwebs everywhere. We thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a festival here,” Wissman said.

The festival officially launched in Cortona in 2003, featuring concerts, art exhibitions, culinary events, wine tastings and literary gatherings. Over the next couple of years, it grew rapidly. Barrett attributed the success to the fact that the festival was dedicated to the artists themselves.

“It was the one time in the summer where they had time to come together, and it led to interesting collaborations that they normally wouldn’t be able to do,” Wissman said. “We had the best artists from across the world. From Anthony Hopkins to Sting.”

In 2006, Wissman brought Festival del Sole to Napa Valley, and the event was renamed Festival Napa Valley in 2016. However, this August will be Festival del Sole’s reincarnation.

Wissman set out to unite the purest form of collaboration and talent, from wineries to chefs, with the notion of bringing all artists together.

12/30/2012: D2: PC: Robert Worth, choral director, leads the Sonoma Bach Choir prior to their performance at Weill Hall in the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, Saturday, December 15, 2012. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)
Festival del Sole concerts will be held inside Weill Hall in the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park from Aug. 1 to 4. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

“The idea is to build something in Sonoma like what Ravinia is to Chicago. The highest level of performance and arts combined with food and wine,” Wissman said.

The festival kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 1, with performances by acclaimed instrumentalists Olga Kern, Nina Kotova and Viktoria Mullova. “This is the first time these musicians are coming together, they’ve never played together,” Wissman said.

On Friday, Aug. 2, celebrated violinist and violist Pinchas Zukerman will perform alongside cellist Amanda Forsyth and pianist Michael Brown. On Saturday, Aug. 3, tenor Joseph Calleja, known for his “golden-age” voice and commanding stage presence, will perform.

The festival will conclude on Sunday, Aug. 4, with a screening of “The Way of the Rain: Hope for Earth—A Symphony for Our Planet.” The film captures the October 2023 live performance at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas, Texas, featuring narration by Robert Redford and music by Tim Janis. Sibylle Szaggars Redford and Robert Redford will attend the screening and gala dinner.

Robert Redford with violinist Chad Hoopes, 14, and Alondra de la Parra, conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas at the Castello di Amorosa in the Napa Valley, part of the 2009 Festival del Sole. Hoopes performed Vivaldi with the orchestra while Redford served as the narrator. Photo:
Robert Redford with violinist Chad Hoopes, 14, and Alondra de la Parra, conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas at the Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley, part of the 2009 Festival del Sole. Redford and his wife Sibylle Szaggars Redford will attend the film screening and gala dinner at this year’s Festival del Sole at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park. (Courtesy of

Buena Vista Winery and French vintner Jean-Charles Boisset will host the grand gala dinner and auction on Aug. 4. The event will benefit The Way of the Rain, a nonprofit founded by Sibylle Szaggars Redford that promotes environmental awareness through artistic performances.

Attendees can enjoy wines from Buena Vista and a special Bordeaux crafted by enologist Michel Rolland. Additionally, Vinous, a renowned wine publication, has organized a series of lunches and tastings at wineries such as Freeman Vineyard & Winery and Three Sticks Wines. One of the festival’s main draws will be the culinary and wine experiences curated by private wine club Domus Artium Reserve.

Montage Healdsburg will offer accommodations for artists and participants. The resort is located on 258 acres in Sonoma and features 130 bungalow-style guest rooms and suites and 40 private residences.

“We really want to bring the community together, something that Sonoma can be really proud of and proud to host. I really want to try to encourage anyone who wants to collaborate to be a part of it,” said Wissman.

Tickets for Festival del Sole range from $45 to $70 for music performances, $190 for lunch and wine tastings, and $500 for the gala dinner. Purchase tickets at or by calling 707-664-4246. For more details on the gala and wine events, visit