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An Australian alfresco experience of French baroque opera
It's easy to spot the Peninsula Summer Music Festival opera veterans. They arrive early to stake their spot on the church lawn, armed with folding chairs and state-of-the-art Eskies full of local gourmet delicacies. If they're lucky, they'll be treated to a last minute rehearsal and a glimpse of their favourite performers in holiday mode. Local wines by the glass round off what is always a fine combination of home grown talent and international flavour.
This year's overseas guest was French conductor and harpsichordist Martin Gester, an enthusiast of French baroque and the peninsula in general, although not of the pesky north wind that blew half his music away. But as he so Gallicly described it, 'Zat's baroque.' On the positive side, that same wind heralded the cool change that made conditions near-perfect for an alfresco experience of the music of Lully, Rameau, Leclair, Monteclair and Muffat as the sun set over Flinders.
Internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean gave brief introductions to each of her performances, providing background to the tales of love, loss and sorcery threaded throughout the programme. Lully's 'Armide', a story of demons and being flown to the end of the universe, was a truly one-sorceress show, as Betts-Dean let loose her inner diva.
Genesis Baroque, led by the mesmerising Lucinda Moon, provided a stand-out, stand-up performance on a small stage. The acoustics under the marquee were surprisingly good, and the encore - Rameau's 'Les surprise de l'Amour - was a joyous finale to an evening full of music, wine and bonhomie Peninsula Festival-style.