Ailing Ren_e Fleming Withdraws From Festival del Sole Finale - And Christine Brewer Jets to the Rescue

Classic Arts News   Ailing Ren_e Fleming Withdraws From Festival del Sole Finale - And Christine Brewer Jets to the Rescue
Ren_e Fleming, having suddenly taken ill, has had to pull out of Sunday night's gala finale of the first Festival del Sole in California's Napa Valley.

With conductor St_phane Denve and the Russian National Orchestra, Fleming was scheduled to perform Strauss's Four Last Songs at the July 23 concert. The program also includes the overture to Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Strauss's tone poem Don Juan and Dvoršk's Cello Concerto with soloist Nina Kotova, the festival's artistic director.

But the concert is going ahead as planned — thanks to quick thinking, generosity and the miracle of modern flight: Christine Brewer will travel directly to the festival following an East Coast performance tomorrow night and step in for the ailing Fleming.

While she has been active on the concert circuit for some time, over the past three years Brewer's renown as a dramatic soprano has soared, particularly in the music of Richard Strauss. Tim Ashley of London's The Guardian wrote in 2004 that "[her] voice is, quite simply, one of the greatest in the world ... simply a knockout." And just last week, with James Levine and the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, she gave acclaimed performances as Chrysothemis in Strauss's Elektra and Tove in Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder.

The brand-new Festival del Sole is the California cousin of the Tuscan Sun Festival (founded in 2003 and running this year from August 5-20), which takes place every summer in the medieval hill town of Cortona. Both festivals, which aim to combine first-rate music with explorations of visual art, cuisine, wine and wellness, are headed by founder Barrett Wissman, chairman of IMG Artists. Full information can be found at

Brewer gives a recital tomorrow evening in New Lebanon, New York, after which she will fly overnight in a private jet to California to prepare for the Sunday evening concert. The last-minute flight, courtesy of XOJET, Inc., was arranged by a Festival del Sole board member.

As it happens, Brewer recently completed a recording of the Four Last Songs for Telarc with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and conductor Donald Runnicles. Though the CD's official release date isn't until August 15, copies will be available for purchase by the audience at the concert. (These folks think of everything ...)

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