American soprano Renee Fleming opened the second season of Sonoma State University's Weill Hall on a high note Sunday afternoon with a sparkling vocal recital that ranged from Handel to the all-American songbook of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
The opening concert of the Green Music Center's second season was reminiscent of last year's gala opening concert featuring Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang, minus the chilly evening temperatures and the fireworks.
On Sunday afternoon, a light breeze and temperatures in the high 70s provided ideal conditions. For those who had endured the long, difficult years of fundraising and campus controversy to build the center, the sun was shining at last.
Renee Fleming At The Green Music Center
“Today we've reached the epitome of why we built this place,” said Jeff Langley, outgoing chair of SSU's School of Performing Arts. “You're not a first-tier hall until Renée has opened it.”
Sandy Weill, chairman of the Green Music Center board of advisors, addressed the audience before the recital, thanking SSU President Ruben Arminana and his wife, Marne, for their original vision to build the hall.
“They had the tenacity to see it through a very difficult time,” Weill said. “It really has the ability to transform this campus in a very big way.”
Weill is a partner in Sonoma Media Investments, whose holdings include The Press Democrat.
While last year's opening concert attracted about 3,400, organizers estimated there were just 1,642 at Sunday's afternoon recital.
For the next two weeks, however, Weill Hall will resound with four more top talents, starting with pianist Lang Lang on Tuesday and violinist Itzak Perlman on Saturday. The season-opening celebration continues Sept. 28 with jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and Sept. 29 with Bay Area soprano Ruth Ann Swenson.
The crowd at Sunday's concert was eclectic. Some arrived in limos wearing tuxes and black gowns, while others wore linen and carried lounge chairs for the lawn. The hall's back door was opened for the concert.