Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bach's Cafe Cantata plays well in coffeeland

It's refreshing to know that JS Bach had enough humor in his Germanic bones to write "The Coffee Cantata" -- in which a father complains mightily about his daughter's addiction to that caffeinated drug of choice. I heard the Bach Cantata Choir present this delightful cantata as a short opera this afternoon at the Rose City Park Presbyterian Church with Jacob William Herbert as the father (Schlendrian), Nan Haemer as the coffee obsessed daughter, Lieschen, and Byron Writer as the narrator. Herbert and Haemer camped up the father/daughter conflict very well, and Haemer scored lots of chuckles by rolling her eyes and doing all sorts of little gestures and motions that accented her excellent comic talent. All three principals sang well, but I came away most impressed with Herbert who has a robust and beautiful baritone voice that keeps getting better and better.

Entertaining, yet less successful with the first opera of sorts, Georg Philipp Telemann's "Der Schulmeister" ("The Schoolmaster"), which was performed by baritone Uwe Haefker in the title role and the soprano section of the Bach Cantata Choir - plus a couple of children. Haefker's singing was fine except that he lost his place in the last aria and had to restart it.

That same problem also inflicted Byron Wright during his aria in Telemann's "Tirsis am Scheidewege" ("Tirsis' Choice"). Fortunately, the Bach Cantata Choir didn't suffer such lapses in its singing of Victor Hely-Hutchinson's "Old Mother Hubbard" in the style of Handel and Adriano Banchieri's "Contraponto bestiala alla mente," which humorously combined the sounds of birds, cats, and dogs. PDQ Bach's "My Bonnie Lass She Smelleth" was a little ragged yet funny enough to generate lots of laughter in the audience.

This concert took place in the fellowship hall of the church where choir members recreated the atmosphere of Zimmermann's Coffee House (where Bach and his colleague used to meet). The coffee, cakes, and fruit tortes were ausgezeichnet (excellent)! Also, interestingly enough, the acoustics were much better than in the sanctuary (upstairs).

1 comment:

Lorin Wilkerson said...

If anyone is interested in seeing some photos and an insider's recap of Cafe Bach, go to my blog at Musical Oozings (in the links above) and check it out.