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Opera stars to perform in vineyards at 5 p.m. today

Supporters enjoy arias while picnicking in lovely settings

Picnicking at tables set in a vineyard while opera stars serenade? Does life get any better?

This summer, Livermore Valley Opera is holding two events of its Opera in the Vineyard, to benefit its 25th anniversary season. The late Sunday afternoon of classic opera among the vines will take place 5-8 p.m. July 17 at Retzlaff Vineyards in Livermore and 4-7 p.m. Aug. 14 at Nella Terra Cellars in Sunol.

"The annual Opera in the Vineyard is a very popular community event," said Raquel Holt, one of the opera's founders in 1992 who is co-chairing the event with Pamela Philbert. "Our supporters and many new guests come each time to enjoy the high quality of the talented opera singers, the wonderful program, and the lovely vineyard setting. It has always been a sold-out event."

The professional singers perform arias from classic operas, so it is also an opportunity for those curious about opera to get a taste of what is offered at the Bankhead Theater.

Guests bring their own picnic dinners to the event, and the vineyards will have wines for sale.

"From their picnic baskets, our guests take out a spread of delectable culinary delights to share, and to hear the clinking of wine glasses as they happily make a toast to each other is a delight to see," Holt said.

Nella Terra Cellars in Sunol is one of the region's newest wineries. Owners Paulette and Gerry Beemiller, who are founders of the Silicon Valley Charity Ball that raises millions for Bay Area nonprofit groups, are also big supporters of Livermore Valley Opera.

"This beautiful winery is generally not open to the public, so the August Opera in the Vineyard will offer guests a special experience," Holt said. "Come early and stroll the gardens before the performance begins at 4:45 p.m."

Tickets are $40 each in advance, $50 each at the door. They can be purchased at www.livermorevalleyopera.com.

The program will also offer "Arias a la Carte," a chance for guests to purchase songs from a menu to be performed at their table.

Singers this year are Livermore Valley Opera favorites: On July 17, tenor David Gustafson ("La Traviata"), soprano Emma McNairy ("Cinderella" and "Lucia di Lammermoor"), bass Kirk Eichelberger ("Lucia di Lammermoor" and "The Italian Girl in Algiers") and, making her Livermore Valley Opera debut, mezzo-soprano Louisa Waycott.

On Aug. 14, performers are Gustafson, mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz ("Lucia di Lammermoor," "Carmen" and "Rigoletto"), baritone Bradley Kynard ("Madama Butterfly") and debuting Lisa Davila.

Accompanying the singers is pianist Chun Mei Wilson.

"It is always wonderful to see our supporters enjoy themselves in an informal and casual setting as they listen to beautiful arias being performed by LVO's talented principal singers," Holt said.

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