The Music Man of the Napa Valley Opera House
With Peter Williams at the helm, the Napa Valley Opera House heats up.
COURTESY OF NAPA VALLEY OPERA HOUSE
On an October evening six years ago, Peter Williams and his wife, Chelsea Sammel, drove out to Napa from Oakland to see trumpeter Wynton Marsalis perform. Entering the historic Napa Valley Opera House for the first time, he said to his wife, “Oh my God, look at this room! I’d love to book a show here.”
That wish came true last year, as Williams assumed the role of executive and artistic director of the opera house venue. A lifelong music lover (“In high school, I was a guy with a big record collection”) with radio DJ and management experience, Williams spent 12 years booking shows for Oakland’s Yoshi’s nightclub. His enthusiasm—and Rolodex—helped fuel the opera house’s recent boom from 70 shows a year to 150-plus.
Williams booked A-listers Natalie Cole, Chris Botti, and George Benson—all opera house firsts. Local theater troupe Napa Valley Broadway Playhouse debuted with Cabaret. A documentary film series was added. And recently, Williams struck a deal to create Orchestra Napa Valley, to replace the shuttered Napa Valley Symphony.
It’s an exciting time for the opera house—and for downtown Napa, which is experiencing a cultural and culinary Renaissance. And Williams is clear on his goal: “I want the opera house to be the cultural hub of the county.”
On the horizon is an amped-up food program in the downstairs café theatre, for pre-show dinners and post show wine receptions. Williams also hopes the café theater will become a gathering place for the community, from local band concerts to art shows to salsa dancing nights. And he is considering broadcast events, such as election results or the Metropolitan Opera.
“The opera house is a great spot with a great sound and a supportive community,” says Williams. “In another few years, it will be just bustling around Napa, and we’ll be happy to be a part of it.”
Napa Valley Opera House
November 7–11: Napa Valley Film Festival
November 16: Angelique Kidjo, African singer
November 17: MacHomer, twist on Shakespeare
November 29: Punch Brothers, bluegrass
December 9: Ballet Folklorico Costa de Oro
December 20: Windham Hill Winter Solstice
For a complete schedule of events, visit nvoh.org.