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Love Among the Grapevines: Conductor Weds Between Performances at Napa Valley's Festival del Sole

By Matthew Westphal
24 Jul 2007

Stéphane Denève
photo by J. Henry Fair

How's this for a wedding? The setting is the grounds of a vineyard in California's Napa Valley; Covent Garden's chief conductor, Antonio Pappano, is leading the music, with players from the Russian National Orchestra; Dmitry Sitkovetsky is on hand to play the violin solos. The best man, looking as dapper as ever, is Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

This was not just a fantasy — French conductor Stéphane Denève lived it last week at the Festival del Sole, marrying his fiancée, Asa Masters, in a July 19 ceremony and reception at the Bouchaine Vineyards, hosted by owners Gerret Copeland and his wife, Tatiana (a grand-niece of Sergei Rachmaninoff).

"I was stunned when the Copelands offered to host our wedding during last year's festival," said Denève in a statement. "I couldn't believe their generosity. We accepted their offer and started making plans."

The 36-year-old maestro led the Russian National Orchestra in the 2007 Festival's opening night concert, featuring Frederica von Stade and James Galway, on July 13. And, postponing the honeymoon briefly, he returned to the podium the evening after the ceremony to conduct the RNO in suites about two legendary loving couples, Pelleas and Melisande (by Fauré) and Romeo and Juliet (by Prokofiev) — with the best man joining them for Grieg's Piano Concerto. (Thibaudet and Denève are longtime friends.) They all dedicated the performance to the bride.

Denève has been winning high praise in Glasgow, where he has been chief conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra since 2005. His guest-conducting appearances in Europe and the U.S. have drawn considerable notice as well: he has performed with ensembles from the Orchestre de Paris and St. Petersburg Philharmonic to the St. Louis, Washington National, Montreal and Toronto Symphonies to the New Japan Philharmonic and Sydney and Melbourne Symphonies to Covent Garden, the Opéra national de Paris and the Netherlands Opera (among others).




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