Singing Bach in a Coffee Shop

Good morning. It’s Friday. Today we’ll find out about a Bach cantata with a protagonist who loves her coffee, newly staged by people who love theirs. We’ll also get details on why F.B.I. agents searched the homes of two senior fire chiefs.

Christine Lyons, the soprano who is singing the role of Lieschen in a new performance of a Bach cantata.Credit…Bowie Dunwoody

The On Site Opera company stages operas, but not in traditional theaters.

It performed a Benjamin Britten opera about a governess at a country estate at a onetime country estate in the Bronx. For a work based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” it went deep in an underground crypt adjacent to a cemetery in Upper Manhattan. For one about a fossil hunt, it turned the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History into a performance space.

Now the company has taken Bach’s “Coffee Cantata” to — where else? — a coffee shop in SoHo.

There is a back-to-the-future slant to staging this piece in that place. Bach wrote the cantata — “Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht,” BWV 211 — after he took over as leader of an ensemble that gathered regularly at Cafe Zimmermann in Leipzig, Germany. The cantata, in which a father and his coffee-loving daughter sing to each other, mocked some Leipzigers’ fixation on what others considered an unconventional drink.

The piece was also a caffeinated departure from Bach’s famous liturgical compositions. “This was not Bach’s M.O., generally, to write a secular cantata,” On Site Opera’s music director, Geoffrey McDonald, told me.

Audience members will be served coffee chosen to complement the action onstage: A single-origin variety from Nicaragua, another variety from Kenya and a drink combining coffee from Ethiopia with Ceylon tea. The company’s artistic director, Sarah Meyers, said that when she heard about that mixture, “my first thought was, ‘That shouldn’t happen,’ but then I tried it. It’s quite nice.”

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