Tuscan Sun Festival

The Tuscan Sun Festival was an annual music and art festival that took place within the intimate setting of the medieval town of Cortona, in the province of Arezzo, Tuscany. The August festival offered an exciting program that included not only world class concerts, but a daily program of events that explored fine art, culinary and wine, fitness and wellness, and local culture and history.

Each evening, concerts featuring some of the world’s most distinguished artists were performed in the intimate setting of the Romantic-period theatre, Teatro Signorelli.

In the 1990s, Barrett Wissman and cellist Nina Kotova had often discussed organizing an event somewhere in the world where friends could make music together in a warm welcoming atmosphere.

As regular visitors and part-time residents in the Cortona area, Wissman and Kotova discussed their desire to bring together musicians, as well as artists from many disciplines, with their neighbor, Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun. Mayes suggested that Cortona might be the very location for such a gathering.

When in Cortona, Wissman and Kotova had often passed by the charming exterior of the Teatro Signorelli, the principle music venue in the very heart of the town. On one occasion when the Teatro was empty, they managed to visit the interior – and then they knew. Full of the splendor of an earlier age, Teatro Signorelli was, at that time, used throughout the year mostly for the screening of films, as well as hosting local theatrical events. However, live musical performances were rarely a regular part of the theatre’s schedule. Armed with the hope of breathing musical life back into a beautiful Tuscan venue, combined with the first handful of enthusiastic international artists who routinely perform at the highest level, in 2003, the Tuscan Sun Festival was born.

Since that time, the Festival matured into an annual event that continued to be artist-led while simultaneously embracing the proud spirit of the local community. Regularly presenting prominary musicians, the Tuscan Sun Festival became the first event of its kind to provide such a platform and combine music with the visual, culinary and literary arts. Produced in collaboration with the renowned arts management company IMG Artists, of which Barrett Wissman became Chairman in 2003, the festival incorporates an array of ‘Festival Events’ which include fine art exhibitions, culinary events, wine tastings, lectures and other literary events, as well as the outstanding musical concerts. In 2006, Barrett Wissman was granted an Honorary Citizen of Cortona City by the Mayor of Cortona, Dott. Andrea Vignini.

The notion that beautiful music could be combined with the visual and culinary arts, wine-making and literature caught on. Thus, tucked away in the heart of the Napa Valley in California, among the lush vineyards, gently rolling hills and bathed in eternal California sunshine, Festival del Sole Napa Valley became the second jewel added to Sun Festival crown.

Founded in the summer of 2006 as a sister festival to the Tuscan Sun Festival, Festival del Sole Napa Valley quickly established its own identity with an incomparable parade of performances followed by gala receptions and dinners, every evening. The concert schedule rivals anything a major metropolis offers during an entire year, and yet Festival del Sole presents far more than only classical music. Visitors to the festival can find anything from a young artist series, introducing the best talent California has to offer, to multimedia presentations, outdoor mega-concerts for thousands of people, as well as jazz and experimental music. The second season included the addition of the spectacular Castello di Amorosa as a concert venue, a full-scale reproduction medieval castle that defies reality and rivals the best palaces of Italy. A mecca for gourmets and famous chefs, Napa has generously shared its most famous culinary stars with the Festival. Festival del Sole Napa Valley has become the most anticipated festival in California and is already instantly recognized as one of America’s premiere artistic events. Festival del Sole Napa Valley is presented under the auspices of the Del Sole Foundation for the Arts and Humanities, a registered U.S. non-profit charitable institution.

With the first two musical and cultural festivals well established, in 2007, Singapore became the exclusive Asian home of The Singapore Sun Festival. This Sun Festival featured over 250 international and regional artists in over 90 events in 11 days, ranging from performances by some of the best artists from around the world, exclusive wine sessions, culinary classes, art exhibitions, literature talks, film screenings and wellness sessions with yoga and tai chi experts. The Singapore Sun Festival carried forward on the reputation established for the Festival in its inaugural year and firmly established itself as Singapore’s leading annual arts and life-style festival.