Critic’s Choice

By David Fleshler

When musical discussions turn to composers of comic opera, Bach may not be the first name to come to mind.

Yet his Coffee Cantata is a miniature opera buffa, complete with the stock figures of rebellious young woman and scheming older man, characters that would populate the comic operas of Mozart and Rossini. The cantata, which tells the story of a man’s attempt to persuade his daughter to give up Leipzig’s fashionable beverage, will be performed Friday through Sunday by Seraphic Fire as part of its 10-day Enlightenment Festival.

The festival, which will be conducted and narrated by the choir’s artistic director, Patrick Dupré Quigley, focuses on the 18th century, with occasionally forays into the 17th century. The major composers are Bach, Handel and Haydn, whose works will showcase the virtuoso choir’s precision, tonal beauty and vast range of expression. 

Despite its light subject matter, the Coffee Cantata, known more formally as Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, has some of the harmonic complexity and psychological depth one would expect from Bach. The aria in which the young girl Lieschen sings of her love of coffee, “Ei! Wie schmeckt der Kaffee süße,” in a duet with the flute, is probably as soaring a tribute as any non-alcoholic beverage has ever received.

Also on the program will be Bach’s Wedding Cantata, a set of madrigals by Monteverdi and a work by the Roman composer Stefano Landi.

Seraphic Fire will perform Bach’s Coffee and Wedding cantatas, as well as works of Monteverdi and Stefano Landi, 7:30 p.m. Friday at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Coral Gables, 7:30 p.m. Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale, and 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton.

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Wed Feb 12, 2020
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