We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Friday, February 23, 2024


 Bernard Holcomb, Philip Cokorinos, and Christine Lyons
(photo by meche kroop)

No other company we know of does what On Site Opera does; they make a perfect match between an opera and a venue, taking us to many places we have not previously visited. Two of our favorite matchings were their production of Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera in a community garden on the Upper West Side and the production of Puccini's Il Tabarro on a vessel docked at the South Street Seaport.  Well, Dear Reader, we have added a third! Bach's Coffee Cantata taking place currently at The Lost Draft, a charming coffee shop on Broome Street. We regret to inform you that the run is sold out (as all of their productions are) so we will make an attempt to paint the picture for you.

After being welcomed into the premises, we were seated along the wall, the table in front of us set with coffee cups, cookies, and popcorn. Magically, the barista (Bernard Holcomb) became the narrator of the piece, a 45 minute comic opera written in the 1730's by J.S.Bach and (get this!), presented in a coffee house in Leipzig. And here we are three centuries later immersed in a family drama between an authoritarian father (Philip Cokorinos) who wants his rebellious daughter (Christine Lyons) to stop drinking coffee.

Papa uses all manner of manipulations and threats to convince her to give up her addiction. She only agrees if she is allowed to marry; she secretly plans to ensure that the marriage contract contains a clause that allows her to caffeinate herself to her heart's content. It is a simple story and we had no problem with its adaptation  to contemporary times.

Total immersion involved the artists going behind the counter, making and serving coffee, whilst the actual employees of the coffee shop became supernumeraries, although there was no chorus, LOL. Everything was happening in real time and three different coffees were served. We could readily imagine being in a Leipzig coffee house in the 1730's even though dress was contemporary (costuming by Beth Goldenberg) and the work was sung in English, with a very fine loose translation by Music Director Geoffrey McDonald.

We confess that Bach has never been one of our favorites. Aside from this winning piece of fluff, he never wrote an opera and we find oratorios and cantatas ponderous. However, the charming nature of this piece allowed us to recognize his compositional skills, particularly his intricate counterpoint, as it served the witty dialogue perfectly.

The singing was delightful and there were titles available by using one's cell phone but we preferred not to take our eyes off the action, directed by Sarah Meyers. The charming score was performed by a quartet of fine musicians, comprising the American Modern Ensemble-- Violinist Nikita Yermack, cellist Valeriya Sholokova, guitarist Dan Lippel, and flutist John Romero who also played the recorder. Maestro McDonald's orchestration was completely on point. 

We have only one quibble.  It was over too soon. We enjoyed the flirtation between the barista and young lady and all the hijinks of the stage direction. We wanted a second act! We wish Bach had written about the interaction after the young lady gets married!

We raise our coffee cup to toast On Site Opera and the lovely staff at The Lost Draft!  And now, we are going to make ourself a cup of coffee!

© meche kroop

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