Coffee week: 2, the Coffee Cantata

In the 1730s, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a sort of miniature comic opera about a young woman devoutly addicted to coffee, and her despairing father who would do anything to break her of her habit. Because coffee is certainly not a habit suited to a lady.Houghton_EC65.A100.674w_-_Women's_Petition_Against_Coffee
I met this cantata in the seventies, when I owned a cheap portable turntable, which despite its speaker couldn’t hide the gorgeousness of Emma Kirkby’s soprano, yearning after her cup of

You naughty child, you wanton girl,
Ah, when will I get my way?
Lay off the coffee, for me!

Dear Father, don’t be so strict!
For if I cannot drink my cup of coffee
Three times each day
In my torment I’ll turn
Into dried-up roast goat meat.

Ah! How sweet the coffee’s taste is,
Sweeter than a thousand kisses,
Milder than muscatel wine
Coffee, coffee, coffee must I have,

If you don’t give up coffee,
You won’t go to any wedding feast,
Or even go for a stroll.

But just leave me my coffee!

(Now I’ve got the little monkey!)
I won’t get you a whalebone dress of the latest fashion.

I can stand that.

Then you’ll have to be satisfied
With never having a husband!

O yes! Dear Father, please, a husband!

I swear it will never be!

Until I abstain from coffee?
Now—Coffee, be forever conquered!
Dear Father, mark, I’ll never drink a bit.

And you in turn will have a husband.

Old Schlendrian now goes off to see
If he can find a husband for this his daughter Lieschen—
But Lieschen secretly lets it be known:
No suitor may come to my house
Unless he promises me—
And puts it into the marriage contract—
That I will be permitted
To brew coffee whenever I want.

Here’s Emma Kirkby, singing the cantata’s opening:

And here’s the whole thing.

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  1. Merrily Taylor on November 3, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Now that’s a woman after my own heart!

  2. Barbara Rohrer on November 3, 2015 at 7:09 am


  3. Lynn Hirshman on November 3, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Utterly delightful! Bach I hadn’t know existed!

  4. Janis Kiehl Harrison on November 3, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Wait a moment: Your husband “was?” I recall his age was a bit more than yours, and you and I are now “women of a certain age,” but he “was?” Oh dear.

    • Laurie King on November 3, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Noel was indeed older than I, by 30 years. He died in 2009.

  5. Kristin on November 3, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this lighter side of Bach (one of my favorite composers). Who says classical music has to be serious?

  6. Ellen on November 3, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks for this chance to enjoy! Speaking of the lighter side … this brought to mind the “Sanka Cantata” — the “only known composition of P.D.Q. Bach.”… (Peter Schickele).

    • Laurie King on November 3, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      Ah yes, JCE’s wastrel brother…

  7. Elizabeth Dodd on November 4, 2015 at 7:49 am

    How unexpectedly delightful!

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