Coffee Cantata

Bach clearly understood the importance of coffee.   This is a morsel from Graham Abbott’s recent ‘Keys to Music’ program on Bach’s secular music.

Coffee was considered an illicit drug in Bach’s times.  There were ‘coffee inspectors’ who roamed the streets and if they could smell the roasting or brewing of coffee they would fine the establishment owners.  I wonder whether they confiscated the stuff and enjoyed it themselves later and in secret?  It was also thought that coffee adversely affected women’s fertility.

Bach, who sired 22 children with two wives, knew better!  He wrote his ‘Coffee Cantata’ some time between 1732 and 1735.  It is considered a secular cantata but is essentially a miniature comic opera.   It is a satirical commentary on the attitude to coffee and tells the story of an innkeeper’s daughter who is addicted to coffee.  She declares that she won’t marry anyone who will forbid her from drinking coffee.  One of her lines is:

“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 shrivelled-up roast goat”.

I would too!

Naomi Roseth


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