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Music / Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht

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Johann Sebastian Bach wrote at least 200 Cantatas for church use during his lifetime. This is not one of them.

Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht ("Be still, stop chattering"), BWV 211, known popularly as the "Coffee Cantata" and most likely written in 1732-35, tells the story of a father frustrated over his daughter's addiction to coffee. He tries over and over again to get her to stop, to no avail, until he hits upon what seems to be her weak spot...

You can listen to it (with English subtitles) here.

This cantata contains examples of:

  • An Aesop: The concluding trio hammers home that people shouldn't be condemned for liking coffee.
  • All-Knowing Singing Narrator: Exaggerated. He has no part in the story apart from narration, and it's an opera, so of course, all he does is sing.
  • Author Appeal: Johann Sebastian Bach was well known for having a serious coffee habit himself. He even directed a group of musicians, the Collegium Musicum, who played a steady gig at Café Zimmermann, a popular coffee house in Leipzig. It's likely that Schweigt stille was premiered at one of their concerts. Significantly, the Twist Ending of the cantata is not present in the original libretto; Bach quite possibly came up with it himself just to make it very clear he was on the pro-coffee side of the story!
  • Central Theme: Guess.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Though in this case, it would probably be more accurate to say "Drinking What Daddy Hates". The ending does reveal that Lieschen will only entertain suitors who promise to let her drink her coffee.
  • Genre-Busting: Although written and classified as a cantata, it executes as a comic operetta, and is often performed as such; staging, costumes, the whole nine yards.
  • "I Am" Song: The second aria is Lieschen singing about her love for coffee.
  • Love-Obstructing Parents: Inverted. Schlendrian actively offers to find Lieschen a husband if she will give up coffee.
  • Lysistrata Gambit: Lieschen secretly tells the potential suitors her father finds that she will only marry them if they allow her to drink coffee.
  • Meaningful Name: Lieschen's father is named Schlendrian, or "Stick in the Mud."
  • Minimalist Cast: Lieschen, Schlendrian, and the narrator. That's it.
  • Must Have Caffeine: The Ur-Example and entire point of the cantata.
  • The New Rock & Roll: Coffee addiction was the 18th-century Leipzig equivalent, and is reflected in Schlendrian's character.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The official title is simply the first words sung by the narrator, which translate to "Be still, stop chattering".
  • Ode to Food: In the fourth movement ("Ei! Wie schmeckt der Kaffee süße"), Lieschen sings a love song to her coffee.
  • Satire: Of the emerging opinion that drinking coffee was a bad habit. Apparently, Moral Guardians were just as annoying in Bach's time as they are today.
  • Serious Business: A big part of the humor, of course, is just how seriously Lieschen and her father take her coffee addiction. Bach treats the music as though it's an opera seria, rather than a comic opera.
  • Show, Don't Tell: In the last recitative, an inversion occurs as a side effect of performing a cantata as an opera. We only have the narrator's word on what Lieschen does following her agreeing to give up coffee in exchange for Schlendrian finding her a husband.
  • The Something Song: The popular name "Coffee Cantata" is in the vein of this.
  • Take a Third Option: Lieschen agrees to give up coffee in exchange for her father finding her a husband, but secretly pulls a Lysistrata Gambit to make sure whoever she eventually marries allows her to drink it.
  • You Are Grounded!: Schlendrian tries this on Lieschen to get her to stop drinking coffee and quickly gets desperate; perhaps the apex (or nadir) is when he forbids her from standing by windows. Lieschen isn't fazed by any of it until Schlendrian forbids her from marrying, which changes her mind very quickly (or not).

Alternative Title(s): Coffee Cantata