New Festival of the Desert to open with Renee Fleming, Quincy Jones


Before the hordes of music fans descend on the Coachella Valley in April for the annual festival, the desert community will play host to a different kind of gathering in March devoted to the performing arts.

The inaugural, one-day event, titled the Festival of the Desert, was announced Wednesday. Organizers said the festival will celebrate classical music, dance and other fine arts and will feature the luminary likes of soprano Renee Fleming, dancer David Hallberg and record producer and musician Quincy Jones.

The Festival of the Desert is being spearheaded by conductor Philippe Jordan, music director of the Paris National Opera, and Barrett Wissman, the chairman of IMG Artists. The festival, unrelated to the rock and electronic dance music event in Indio, is scheduled for March 18 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert and the Sunnylands Center and Gardens in Rancho Mirage.


Fleming will sing in the centerpiece performance, a recital at the McCallum. The soprano, who is preparing for her Broadway debut in the play “Living on Love,” will be accompanied on the piano by Jordan.

The festival will also feature a gala reception featuring musical and dance programs curated by Jones and Hallberg, respectively.

In addition, the festival will feature a concert curated by Jordan and a public talk with Michael Kaiser, the former head of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

A spokeswoman for the festival said organizers hope that it will become an annual event, and that they are already planning for next year.

The lead donors for the festival are philanthropists Regina and Gregory Annenberg Weingarten. Gregory Annenberg Weingarten is vice president and director of the Annenberg Foundation and is the son of philanthropist Wallis Annenberg.

Other top supporters include Harold Matzner, the owner of Spencer’s Restaurant in Palm Springs, and the Marc and Eva Stern Foundation. Marc Stern serves as board chairman of Los Angeles Opera.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT