Monday, April 20, 2009

The Coffee Cantata

JS Bach's
Coffee Cantata
Libretto by
Christian Friedrich Henrici
Cantata BMV211

Composed for perfomance by Bach's Collegium at Zimmerman's Coffee House,
Leipzip, between 1732 & 1734

Recitative Narrator
Be quiet, stop chattering,
and pay attention to what's taking place:
here comes Herr Schlendrian
with his daughter Lieschen;
he's growling like a honey bear.
Hear for yourselves, what she has done to him!

Aria Schlendrian
Don't one's children cause one
endless trials & tribulations!
What I say each day
to my daughter Lieschen
falls on stony ground.

Schlendrian You wicked child, you disobedient girl,
oh! when will I get my way;
give up coffee!
Lieschen Father, don't be so severe!
If I can't drink
my bowl of coffee three times daily,
then in my torment I will shrivel up
like a piece of roast goat.

Aria Lieschen
Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
mellower than muscatel wine.
Coffee, coffee I must have,
and if someone wishes to give me a treat,
ah, then pour me out some coffee!

Schlendrian If you don't give up drinking coffee
then you shan't go to any wedding feast,
nor go out walking.
oh! when will I get my way;
give up coffee!
Lieschen Oh well!
Just leave me my coffee!
Schlendrian Now I've got the little minx!
I won't get you a whalebone skirt
in the latest fashion.
Lieschen I can easily live with that.
Schlendrian You're not to stand at the window
and watch people pass by!
Lieschen That as well, only I beg of you,
leave me my coffee!
Schlendrian Furthermore, you shan't be getting
any silver or gold ribbon
for your bonnet from me!
Lieschen Yes, yes! only leave me to my pleasure!
Schlendrian You disobedient Lieschen you,
so you go along with it all!

Aria Schlendrian
Hard-hearted girls
are not so easily won over.
Yet if one finds their weak spot,
ah! then one comes away successful.

Schlendrian Now take heed what your father says!
Lieschen In everything but the coffee.
Schlendrian Well then, you'll have to resign yourself
to never taking a husband.
Lieschen Oh yes! Father, a husband!
Schlendrian I swear it won't happen.
Lieschen Until I can forgo coffee?
From now on, coffee, remain forever untouched!
Father, listen, I won't drink any
Schlendrian Then you shall have a husband at last!

Aria Lieschen
Today even
dear father, see to it!
Oh, a husband!
Really, that suits me splendidly!
If it could only happen soon
that at last, before I go to bed,
instead of coffee
I were to get a proper lover!

Recitative Narrator
Old Schlendrian goes off
to see if he can find a husband forthwith
for his daughter Lieschen;
but Leischen secretly lets it be known:
no suitor is to come to my house
unless he promises me,
and it is also written into the marriage contract,
that I will be permitted
to make myself coffee whenever I want.

A cat won't stop from catching mice,
and maidens remain faithful to their coffee.
The mother holds her coffee dear,
the grandmother drank it also,
who can thus rebuke the daughters!

This outstanding cantata is one of Bach's best (and I say that not simply because coffee is my addiction of choice). One doesn't think of classical music leaving one rolling in the aisles, but I would submit that Mozart, Bach, and Hyden all had quite entertaining works.

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