A Classical Composition about Classic Caffeine Compulsion


Johann Sebastian Bach Coffee Cantata

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is primarily known as a classical composer of Christian music. It was rare that he strayed from religious themes in his music, but when he did it was for a purpose. One such occasion was when he wrote “Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht” (“Be still, Stop Chattering”), a composition devoted to coffee addiction.

Although coffee is a loved in almost all cultures of the world, that was not always the case. In Bach’s day society largely frowned upon women consuming the beverage. Bach poked fun at that convention and wrote the piece that has come to be known as the “Coffee Cantata.” Although Bach did not actually write any operas, the “Coffee Cantata” took on the appearance of a mini comic opera and was performed in costume.

The “Coffee Cantata” was written to be performed in a coffee house in Leipzig and is set around a strong-willed, coffee-drinking young woman and her determined father’s attempts to break her of her coffee addiction. The work features such notable lines as:

“Day and night I’m in a tizzy
Giving sound advice to Lizzie,
But the point she never sees.
At the table every morning
I deliver words of warning,
Hoping she will mend her ways
By giving up the coffee craze.”

“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”

“But father, do not be severe,
For have I not made it clear,
I require at least three cups a day?
My only joy you’d take away.
My heart and soul you would destroy.”

“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!”

“…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.”

“Ah, coffee offers a rapture
Not even kisses recapture,
Milder yet sweeter than wine.
So, so, so good especially —
Oh, oh! — when roasted freshly.”

“Coffee’s aroma expresses
More than a thousand caresses,
Pleasure more pleasing than wine.
Coffee, coffee, coffee I adore so!
Like celestial ambrosia, though more so.
No! No! Nothing else but coffee!
Oh, a gift come rain or shine!”

“Coffee, coffee, coffee I adore so!
Like celestial ambrosia, though more so.
No! No! Take away my coffee,
Take away my life!
Coffee, coffee, I live for coffee,
For coffee come rain or shine!”

“Ah, coffee offers a flavor
Long to remember and savor,
Moment no less than divine.
Oh! Oh! Rapture repeated!
Yes! Yes! Even reheated.
A swallow, a swallow
Fit for Apollo!”

To listen to the Coffee Cantata with English subtitles, click here.

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