As the red carpet rolled across the pavement, the Green Music Center transformed into a glamorous venue worthy of the Great Gatsby himself.
Concertgoers arrived on Sunday in outfits suited for an afternoon of sophistication and walked the red carpet to the doors of Weill Hall.
The rear wall of the hall was raised so those on the terraced lawns could enjoy a truly unique performance, surrounded by rolling hills and immaculately kept gardens.
A more perfect day was unimaginable as the sun shone in the crystal clear sky and the scent of gardenias was carried by the breeze.
As more guests poured into the great hall the anticipation grew until Sanford Weill, for which the hall is named, took the stage.
“This is the beginning of a great future,” said Weill.
Then the audience feel silent as world renowned soprano, Renée Fleming, emerged and glided across the floor to center stage. She was dressed in an off the shoulder silver gown by Vivian Westwood, complete with a floor length scarf wrapped around her shoulders. The music began and the rest was truly history.
In that moment it seemed Weill Hall was built for Fleming. The same voice that graced the ears of President Obama and Queen Elizabeth II, captivated all in attendance.
Every emotion was visible on her face. From heartbreak and sorrow to the utmost joy, the audience could feel the music, regardless of the language she was singing in. The fingers of the pianist, Gerald Martin Moore, floated across the keys then rose and fell as if in slow motion.
“She is the legendary soprano of our time. A true visionary,” said concertgoer Jan Buckley.
After the conclusion of the first aria, Fleming approached the microphone.
“What a gorgeous Hall you have. This is going to be fun,” said Fleming.
Words of very high praise coming from a woman who has performed at the most prestigious venues in the world. She sang at events including the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
She performed on the balcony of Buckingham palace in the Jubilee Concert as well as the Obama Inaugural Celebration. This year she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama and won a Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Solo.
Audience members were eager to hear a spectacular vocal performance but what they probably weren’t expecting was Fleming’s sense of humor. The crowd roared after her explanation of one aria.
“Young lovers are constantly running into the woods at night,” said Fleming. “I don’t know why. Maybe I should do more research.”
She kept the crowd laughing through the whole performance. After she made a mistake she stopped and looked at the pianist’s music.
“I had to mess up on the one you all know. It couldn’t have been a song in German,” said Fleming.
She laughed then restarted “I Feel Pretty” from the classic musical “West Side Story” with added confidence.
As the concert drew to a close, she paused and gazed out the open doors of the hall.
“This view has inspired me,” said Fleming.
A more true statement could not have been made as she sang “The Hills are Alive.”
For the fortunate 250 guests with tickets to the gala, the afternoon was far from over. A cocktail hour held in Prelude gave guests time to mingle over drinks and delicious hors d’oeuvres.
Guests then proceeded down another red carpet into the dinner area located inside a gorgeous outdoor tent.
As the sun sank below the hills the night came alive with the colors of fall. The sparkling chandlers that hung from the ceiling shone in the candlelight.
Celebrity chef Charlie Palmer created the menu for the evening’s incredible three course meal.
The gala was the largest fundraiser of the year and a wonderful opening to 2013-14 MasterCard Performance Series.
Fleming attended the dinner as well as many other prominent community members from the Bay Area. Unfortunately Flemings visit to Sonoma County was short.
She flew to Chicago early Monday morning to attend move in weekend with her daughter who is a freshman at Northwestern University.
The Weill Hall venue and the rest of the evening left Fleming feeling as astonished as the rest of the audience.
“It was absolutely perfect,” said Fleming.