Black tie in the bush

SLOW roasted Duck Maryland, local yearling steak with ratatouille and creme brulee.

The food itself is enough to have you salivating.

But combine the menu with some of the world’s most beautiful music and you have a unique event that is one of the region’s most anticipated.

"As far as I know there’s nothing else like Opera at The Channon," said Geoff Cawley, committee member of The Rotary Club of Lismore’s Opera at The Channon, who has been to every event since its inception 14 years ago.

"It’s such an unusual concept. We are sitting in the middle of the countryside having a silver service dinner, with full table service," he said.

"Everyone is dressed to the nines, in dinner jackets and formal wear. It is a wonderful site – a natural amphitheatre.

"The meals are all cooked on site and served hot to the many guests and our wait staff are all members of local Rotary clubs."

Of course, there’s the music, too. This year’s opera performers, who usually come from Queensland’s young artist program, will be announced on Wednesday.

All money raised from the event goes to Rotary charities.

Cawley says that, from the very first event, they knew they were on to something special.

"People loved it. We built up a very loyal following. Once you’ve been, you get bitten – smitten even.

"It’s a combination of good food, good wine, good company and opera."

For the past six years the lunch has been in the capable hands of David Forster of acclaimed Lismore restaurant Paupiettes.

The award-winning chef says he sees the event as an opportunity to be part of something special, and to contribute to a valuable local organisation: The Rotary Clubs of Lismore.

"It’s a way for us to help out a worthwhile charity," he says.

"We realised the value of the event and got involved.

"We set up a kitchen out there and there are a lot of people who put time and effort into that.

"Everyone works together as a team to produce a great event.

"In particular Geoff Wotherspoon from Wotherspoons, and the party hire places who all supply us with a lot of equipment, make a great contribution.

"But there are plenty of other people – from the security guards to the wait staff – who put in 100 per cent and they all have as much fun as the guests."

Forster says they try to source as much local produce as possible.

As well as the lunch, which is served in the marquee, there is also a picnic, which is almost as popular as the silver service lunch.

"There are gourmet hampers available from The Little Deli.

"Or people can pack their own."

"There is a competition and prizes for the best dressed party and the best dressed picnic. It’s a lot of fun."

Some of the guests come from as far the Gold Coast, Tenterfield, Yamba and Grafton.

The lunch takes place from 11.30am to 1.30pm.

The Ballina Busline coach to the event will be travelling from Byron to Ballina and then to Alstonville and Lismore. The cost is $15 return.

Ground entry and Opera $55; Opera and Silver service Lunch $140, Opera bus return $15. (Glass of champagne on arrival for every guest).

If the weather is wet, the event will be moved to Lismore City Hall.

For bookings call NORPA on 1300 066 775 or go to

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