Coffee Cantata gets a contemporary English translation

Coffee addiction and its dangers get a comic make-over in a sparkling entertainment offered at this year’s Brighton Early Music Festival.

Helen Kruger, director of Little Baroque Company, brings the group to The Old Market, Hove, on Sunday, November 2, for performances at 11.30am, 2pm and 4.30pm of their fully-costumed and colourfully-staged show based around Bach’s Coffee Cantata – Leipzig: Bach’s Secret Addiction.

The libretto has been amusingly updated to represent inter-generational angst in the 21st century – as opposed to the 18th century when the rise of the coffee house was the root of all evil.

Designer Elizabeth Gadsby has been brought in to create the visual language that enhances the music and narrative.

As Elizabeth explains: “The Coffee Cantata was originally written because of the rise in Vienna of the coffee house.

“It is a beautiful interaction between a daughter and her father. He is telling her that she shouldn’t drink coffee because she will end up shrivelled up and old. He is telling her that she won’t be able to get married if she continues her wilful ways with her coffee addiction. It’s a stand-off, and we thought it would be a good idea to transpose this to contemporary life where we are all fuelled by coffee!”

Helen adds: “It was conceived by myself (violin and director) and Jacqueline Dossor (double bass), and we collaborated with Elizabeth. Elizabeth and I are childhood friends from Australia, and the Coffee Cantata project is the first of many productions we plan to do together.

“Our collaboration hopes to strengthen the creative dialogue between the UK and Australia, and we aim to take the Coffee Cantata to Australia in the near future.

“I have been in London for 11 years, I came to study at RAM with Howard Davis (of the Alberni Quartet) and had only planned to stay a year... It is my home now as the music life here is unlike anywhere else.

“Elizabeth is based in Sydney and works as a production designer all over Australia with companies such as the Western Australian Ballet and the Belvoir Street Theatre Company. She is currently over in London to do some development work with our Little Baroque Company.”

Helen started the company when she was at the Royal Academy about seven years ago. They enjoyed success at the Edinburgh Fringe and various other festivals, including visits to Spain, France and Australia.

“Now this is a new direction for us. We are moving towards doing more collaborative work with other people across the arts field. This is our first foray into that.

“This is more of a production than a concert. We are really working towards producing an immersive experience.”

Helen very much sees her future in the UK: “London is the best place to be for historical performance. It has got the most going on, and it has got the highest standards. It has got great opportunities for developing new ideas like this.

“We have taken the Coffee Cantata, and we have given it a new contemporary English translation. With this one, we are really trying to up our game, and we thought that we would make the audience much more a part of the whole experience.”

Tickets: £12 (£10 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk or 01273 709709.

This year’s festival runs from October 24 to November 9 and takes the theme of cities, musical centres and the journeys between them.

Events will also include Nine Daies Wonder from The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments (November 7).