Opera Scotland

Coffee Cantata 1925British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Coffee Cantata

In an age when the works of Bach were far less familiar than they are now, this may have been the first appearance in Scotland of this charming little baroque entertainment.

Performed under the title Coffee and Cupid, this brief curtain-raiser was described as 'arranged from Bach's Coffee Cantata'. The original orchestration by Percy Pitt was not the only radical change. The Narrator, or 'Historicus' in the original, becomes a more conventional figure, Hans, Lieschen's lover.  However there remains a single Chorus figure (played by Liddell Peddieson), who also has some recitative to link the narrative.

Additional parts are found for a maid (Frances Frost) and two notaries (Frank Le Pla and Harold Wilton).

Quite how it worked as a prelude to Rimsky-Korsakov's satirical pantomime The Golden Cockerel (on 6 Oct) or Hugh the Drover (on 16 Oct) is hard to imagine.

 

The Edinburgh Reception

The Scotsman on Saturday, 17 October (p8) was enthusiastic:

'A particularly enjoyable programme at the King's Theatre last night was rewarded with the largest audience which the British National Opera artists have so far attracted this week.  Professor Sanford Terry's clever stage version of Bach's Coffee Cantata is the latest addition to the repertory of the company, while Dr Vaughan Williams's Hugh the Drover was heard in Edinburgh for the first time last year.

'Coffee and Cupid is an effective pasticcio in which the priginal cantata has been supplemented by the overture from another cantata, together with some additional airs and sundry well-chosen dance movements.  As a whole it is a charmingly dainty work, which tells the story of how young love outwitted parental prejudice.  It served to introduce a recent recruit to the company, in the person of Miss Kathlyn Hilliard, who has already made a name in music of lighter cast.  As Lieschen, whose inveterate taste for coffee drinking infuriates her choleric old father, she sang and acted with a delightful vivacity; while Mr Robert Radford, as the father, acquitted himself admirably in buffo style in which he is as much at home as in the impressive rôles with which he is principally associated in the public mind.

'Mr Frederick Davies made a gallant and romantic lover; and Mr Liddell Peddieson as the Chorus delivered the explanatory recitatives with admirable clearness.  Miss Frances Frost as the maid, and Messrs Frank Le Pla and Harold Wilton, as the two notaries, completed an excellent cast.

'The dance movements were beautifully presented, and the audience would gladly have had more of them. With its exquisite eighteenth century setting, the work had a Dresden china prettiness that was a delight to the eye.  Mr Malcolm Sargent conducted, and under his direction the music was given with just the right elegance and distinction.'

 

BNOC in Scotland - 1925

The 1925 tour consisted of two weeks in Glasgow (Theatre Royal) followed by two weeks in Edinburgh (King's).

The 19 operas performed during the tour were:

Bach (Coffee Cantata);  Mozart (Magic Flute); Wagner (Tannhäuser, Tristan and Isolde Mastersingers); Verdi (RigolettoAïdaOtello); Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);  Rimsky-Korsakov (Golden Cockerel);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana); Puccini (BohèmeToscaMadam ButterflyGianni Schicchi); Holst (At the Boar's Head);  Vaughan Williams (Hugh the Drover).

The tour schedule was:

Glasgow, w/c 28 September: Mon 28 Rigoletto;  Tue 29 Tannhäuser;  Wed 30 mat Cav & Pag;  Wed 30 eve Hugh the Drover;  Thu 1 Oct Otello;  Fri 2 Madam Butterfly; Sat 3 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 3 eve Bohème.

Glasgow, w/c 5 October: Mon 5 Carmen; Tue 6 Coffee Cantata & Golden Cockerel; Wed 7 mat Rigoletto;  Wed 7 eve Mastersingers;  Thu 8 Otello;  Fri 9 Tristan and Isolde;  Sat 10 mat Tales of Hoffmann;  Sat 10 eve Aïda.

Edinburgh, w/c 12 October: Mon 12 Mastersingers;  Tue 13 Tannhäuser;  Wed 14  mat Bohème; Wed 14 eve Aïda;  Thu 15 Magic Flute;  Fri 16 Coffee Cantata & Hugh the Drover;  Sat 17 mat Golden Cockerel;  Sat 17 eve Carmen.

Edinburgh, w/c 19 October: Mon 19 Otello;  Tue 20 At the Boar's Head & Gianni Schicchi;  Wed 21 mat Cav Pag;  Wed 21 eve Rigoletto;  Thu 22 Bohème;  Fri 23 Tosca;  Sat 24 mat Carmen;  Sat 24 eve Tales of Hoffmann.

Performance Cast

Historicus Narrator

Steuart Wilson (Oct 6)

Frederick Davies (Oct 16)

Herr Schlendrian

Norman Allin (Oct 6)

Robert Radford (Oct 16)

Lieschen Schlendrian's daughter

Kathlyn Hilliard (Oct 6, 16)

Performance DatesCoffee Cantata 1925

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

6 Oct, 19.30

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

16 Oct, 19.30

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