Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bach's Gift to Coffee Lovers

Have you had a chance to go see any of Collegium Cincinnati’s Bach Festival performances so far this month? There have been a variety of excellent programs around town. If you haven’t had a chance yet, it’s not too late. This Tuesday, March 31 at 7:00pm they are performing Bach’s most famous secular work, the Coffee Cantata! Best of all, you are invited to sing along with the performers! For more details, check this out. 

Coffee Cantata? Yes, this fun work tells of an argument between a father and daughter over the consumption of coffee. Whether you enjoy a cup of coffee or not, you are sure to enjoy this satirical work. Not sure what a cantata is? It is a type of musical work that is written for voice (soloists and/or choir) and an accompanying ensemble. There are sacred cantatas used in Lutheran services that set texts from the day’s Gospel reading and also secular cantatas that contain non-religious subjects. Like opera, cantatas typically used arias (expressive solo sections), recitatives (style of singing that resembles speech), duets, and choruses throughout.

During Bach’s day, there was a group of middle class, amateur musicians in Leipzig that called themselves the Collegium Musicum. Bach directed the ensemble and often times they performed at the local coffee house. Perhaps this Coffee Cantata was among the repertoire used in their performances?

Below you can read the translation of the text for Bach’s amusing Coffee Cantata. Don’t forget to join the fun and enjoy this work live on March 31!

Narrator:
Be quiet, do not chat,
And listen to what happen now:
Here comes Mr. Schlendrian
With his daughter Liesgen,
He grumbles like a grizzly bear;
Hear for yourselves, what she has done to him!

Father:
With children, aren't there
a hundred thousand aggravations!
Whatever I, all the time and every day,
tell my daughter Liesgen,
slides on by with no effect.

You naughty child, you wild girl,
ah! When will I achieve my goal:
get rid of the coffee for my sake!

Daughter:
Father sir, but do not be so harsh!
If I couldn't, three times a day,
be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
in my anguish I will turn into
a shriveled-up roast goat.

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
and, if someone wants to pamper me,
ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

Father:
If you don't give up coffee for me,
you won't go to any wedding parties,
or even go out for walks.

Daughter:
Okay then!
Only leave my coffee alone!

Father:
Now I've got the little monkey!
I will buy you no whalebone dress of the latest fashion.

Daughter:
I can easily put up with that.

Father:
You may not go to the window
and watch anyone passing by!

Daughter:
This too; but be merciful
and let my coffee stay!

Father:
You'll also not receive from my hand
a silver or gold ribbon
for your bonnet!

Daughter:
Sure, sure! Just leave me my pleasure!

Father:
You naughty Liesgen,
you grant all of that to me?

Girls of stubborn mind
are not easily won over.
But if the right spot is touched,
Oh! Then one can happily get far.

Now do what your father says!

Daughter:
In everything but coffee.

Father:
All right then! So you will have to content yourself with never having a husband.

Daughter:
Ah yes! Father, a husband!

Father:
I swear that it will never happen.

Daughter:
Until I give up coffee?
All right! Coffee, lie there now forever!
Father sir, listen, I won't drink none.

Father:
So finally you'll get one!

Daughter:
Even today,
dear father, make it happen!
Ah, a husband!
Indeed, this will suit me well!
If it would only happen soon,
that at last, instead of coffee,
before I even go to bed,
I might gain a sturdy lover!

Narrator:
Now old Schlendrian goes and seeks
How he, for his daughter Liesgen,
might soon acquire a husband;
but Liesgen secretly spreads the word:
no suitor comes in my house
unless he has promised to me himself
and has it also inserted into the marriage contract,
that I shall be permitted
to brew coffee whenever I want.

Everyone:
Cats do not give up mousing,
girls remain coffee-sisters.
The mother adores her coffee-habit,
and grandma also drank it,

so who can blame the daughters!

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