ART BEAT: Peach State Opera's 'Elixir of Love' to be toasted with a wine event

Wine can certainly be an "elixir," and it has many romantic connotations. So it seems only fitting to create a wine tasting event in celebration of Peach State Opera's production of "Elixir of Love."

PSO's Jessica Dennison certainly thinks so, and she has organized a wine party on Sept. 10 at Niko's Wine Corner in Lawrenceville to tantalize both tastebuds and eardrums, touting the upcoming "Elixir of Love" performance the following Tuesday.

The wine tasting will be held from 4 to 6 at Niko's, located at 178 E. Crogan St. in Lawrenceville. Tickets are $10 per person at the door, covering tasty hor d'ouevres from nearby restaurant Local Republic, the wine tasting, and two short performances featuring Dennison and fellow PSO singer Jeffrey David Gibbs.

The reason for the wine tasting is to alert patrons of a performance by the Peach State Opera on Sept. 13. "Elixir of Love" will be presented at the Cole Auditorium, Fine Arts Building, at Georgia Perimeter College located at 555 N. Indian Creek Road in Clarkston.

Written by Gaetano Donizetti, "Elixir of Love" is a sparkling comic opera about a beautiful, flirtatious landowner, a country bumpkin, a handsome sergeant, a traveling salesman, and a magic elixir. The production is directed by Tamara Watson Harper and conducted by PSO's Artistic Director Evelyn Hughes. Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the PSO website at www.peachstateopera.org.

"Opera in Gwinnett" has a nice ring to it, and it is a cause held dearly by Dennison. "A lot of people don't realize they really like opera until they hear it," she said. "The wine event at Niko's will introduce many people to opera. And, many vineyards claim that their wines are also 'elixirs' so pairing the wine with the opera is perfect."

Dennison will be singing several solo arias and two duets with Gibbs. One of the songs she will perform is a special wine song titled "In Praise of Wine."

"The song is very funny. It is for women who love wine. The words go, for example, 'why do you need a man when you have wine?'" Dennison said.

The first mini-performance will be at 4:30 and the second one "shortly thereafter." The two PSO singers will be accompanied by one of PSO's founding members, Patrick Hutchison.

"We want people in Lawrenceville and all of Gwinnett to know what the Peach State Opera is all about," Dennison said. "We want to give them a taste of opera."

Dennison is originally from Augusta. She graduated from Georgia College and State University, where she still teaches part-time. She was awarded a scholarship to Roosevelt University in Chicago where she studied for two years.

When her husband was offered a job in his native town of Lawrenceville, Dennison arrived in Gwinnett and shortly became part of the Lawrenceville Square crowd.

"When I first moved here, I didn't know many people, but my husband and I have really embraced the Lawrenceville downtown scene. We began attending weekly wine tastings at Niko's, and the rest is history," she said.

For more information about the PSO and its performances, visit www.peachstateorchestra.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.