By Edward Kliszus

NEW YORK – On Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience

Tonight was an amazing, immersive operatic experience you must discover for yourself.

Grand Multi Media

As you know, opera is frequently presented in a grand multi-media, 19th-century style as an amalgam of music, dance, drama, and costumes.

But tonight, from the spiffing creative mind of On Site Opera’s new artistic director, Sarah Meyers, we experienced artistic immersion in a new way. Moreover, J. S. Bach’s genius was to be realized through his charming, secular masterpiece, the Coffee Cantata, or as it is formally known, “Coffee” Cantata BWV 211, Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Keep quiet, don’t chatter).

Tenor Bernard Holcomb in a scene from On Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience at The First Draft. Photo by Dan Wright Photography

Tenor Bernard Holcomb in a scene from On Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience at The First Draft. Photo by Dan Wright Photography

Deliciously Fragrant Coffee Shop

Excitement grew as one approached The Lost Draft, a delightful, deliciously fragrant coffee shop in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood. After entering this charming establishment, patrons bustled about and found seats as orchestra members chatted and organized their music. The aroma of fresh coffee greeted guests and awakened the senses, producing bubbling excitement in eager anticipation of the first sip.

Others and I sat at tables laden with freshly popped popcorn and extravagantly delectable cookies. Behind the counter were apron-clad baristas busily preparing for tonight’s repast.

Sensory Delights

In fact, with so many sensory delights to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel, it was easy to forget that this was an evening of opera. It was not to be what an old Philistine acquaintance once told me after sitting through Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at his wife’s behest – he described it as ‘the most expensive five-hour nap he had ever taken.’

Anticipation was building for the splendid coffee offerings like the Blue Draft house blend with ‘spicy textures of cinnamon and brown sugar,’ Jamaican Blue Mountain with ‘notes of chocolate and lemon verbena,’ and Panama Summer Honey Geisha with ‘notes of guava, stone fruit, and jasmine.’ A lightweight myself, I was generously served delicious decaf.

Bass-baritone Philip Cokorinos in a scene from On Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience at The First Draft. Photo by Dan Wright Photography

Bass-baritone Philip Cokorinos, in a scene from On Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience at The First Draft. Photo by Dan Wright Photography

Playful Ode to the Pleasures of Coffee

From behind the counter in this bacchanal scene of tonight’s caffeinated, delectable delight of the senses rang the marvelous sound of Joe, barista in disguise, narrator, and marvelous lyric tenor Bernard Holcomb, accompanied by a world-class chamber orchestra. The opening strains of J. S. Bach’s Coffee Cantata, a masterpiece of ingenius charm, began delivering a delightful, clever, and playful ode to the pleasures of coffee.

Digital Supertitles

J. S. Bach’s Coffee Cantata was originally performed by the Collegium Musicum in Zimmerman’s Coffee House in Leipzig around 1735. It is an amusing miniature opera reflecting the gentle friction between a father and daughter. He prefers his daughter give up her love for drinking coffee to increase her chances of finding a husband. Geoffrey McDonald crafted tonight’s English translation and instrumental orchestration. Audience members were offered digital supertitles to read on their smartphones.

Soprano Christine Lyons in a scene from On Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience at The First Draft. Photo by Dan Wright Photography

Soprano Christine Lyons in a scene from On Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience at The First Draft. Photo by Dan Wright Photography

Stentorian Sonic Prose

We soon met Schlendrian’s daughter Lieschen (Christine Lyons, soprano), a lovely lyrical chanteuse, who approached from the rear of the café. Lieschen’s father Schlendrian (Philip Cokorinos, bass-baritone), added his stentorian sonic prose to the trio as he arrived from the café entrance.

Artistic and Sensory Immersion

It was an evening of true artistic and sensory immersion! Listeners heard, saw, and felt the music. Throughout the production, the cast moved about and among the audience, not only assisting in delivering three rounds of fresh coffee to patrons but charmingly conveying their tale through virtuosic strains of splendid singing, hilarity, and elegance. Faces remained lit with smiles and gratitude in this truly immersive delectation of exquisite music, drama, dance, costuming, humor, taste, aroma, and warmth.

L-R: Guitar Dan Lippel, Cello Valeriya Sholokova, Violin Nikita Yermack, and on Flute/recorder Anna Urrey for On-Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience at The First Draft. Photo by Edward Kliszus

L-R: Guitar Dan Lippel, Cello Valeriya Sholokova, Violin Nikita Yermack, and on Flute/recorder Anna Urrey for On-Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience at The First Draft. Photo by Edward Kliszus

On Site Opera presents The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience

Repertory Notes

J. S. Bach: Coffee Cantata (Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, BWV 211) | 1735

English libretto and orchestration: Geoffrey McDonald
Stage Director: Sarah Meyers
Music Director/Translator/Orchestrator/Conductor: Geoffrey McDonald
Costume Designer: Beth Goldenberg
Director of Production: Emily Barber
Publicist: Kimberley Giannelli

The Cast

Lieschen (soprano): Christine Lyons
Joe, Barista/Narrator (tenor): Bernard Holcomb
Schlendrian (bass-baritone): Philip Cokorinos
Lieschen cover (soprano): Teryn Kuzma
Joe, Barista cover/Narrator (tenor): Josaphat Contreras 

The Orchestra

Featuring members of the American Modern Ensemble

Valeriya Sholokova – Cello
Nikita Yermack – Violin
Dan Lippel – Guitar
Anna Urrey – Flute/Recorder

Presented at The Lost Draft
398 Broome St.
New York, NY 100134
https://www.thelostdraft.com/
(646) 524-6021

Performance and Ticketing Information

The Immersive Coffee Cantata Experience has six performances: February 14, 15, 16, 22, 23, and 24 at 7:00 p.m. The running time is about 45 minutes, including a coffee tasting.

Tickets are $40 and on sale at https://osopera.org/productions/coffee/

On Site Opera

PO Box 231480
New York, NY  10023
347-394-3050
For information, donations, and tickets, go to https://osopera.org/
Follow On Site Opera on Facebook, Instagram at @onsiteopera
Kimberly Giannelli, The PR Social, Public Relations and Marketing Specialist
kimberly@theprsocial.com 914-263-5395

Staff Contacts

Eric Einhorn, General & Artistic Director eric@osopera.org
Piper Gunnarson, Executive Director piper@osopera.org
Pooja Saha, Development Manager pooja@osopera.org
Emily Barber, Production Manager emily@osopera.org
Bowie Dunwoody, Marketing Manager bowie@osopera.org

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of the OnSite Opera production of Mozart’s The Magic FluteOratorio Society of New York performs Bach’s Mass in B minorMasterVoices presents Iolanthe at Carnegie Hall, the Art Bath Salon Series, and Madama Butterfly at Lincoln Center.