I already knew I was in for a different even when I made my way to Bibi’s Cafe for the Opera Interactive: Coffee Cantata. Though I didn’t know what a “cantata” entailed until I Googled it (“a medium length narrative piece of music for voices with instrumental accompaniment, typically with solos, chorus, and orchestra”), I was quick to learn that it would be just as quirky and hilarious as the idea of a “coffee cantata” suggested. Bibi’s Cafe on North Street boasts turquoise walls that reminded me of a Wes Anderson film and very good poached eggs (off topic, but important), and I was happy to see the fun space used to its full potential by the Opera Society.
As someone who listens to opera sparingly, but once in a while, which I think is more than the average university student (no offence to opera fans in St Andrews), I was curious to see if the performers could balance comedy and musical technicalities in a shorter performance. Though Bibi’s looked perfect for the theme of the show, the acoustics didn’t necessarily favour opera. It was a little hard to hear some instances of vibrato and higher notes, but the performers had all the commitment and skill to overcome this hiccup. I think it was more than worth this for the unique event that resulted.
As a university student, not only can I relate to needing coffee all the time, but also I can relate to the caffeine struggle’s staging on an operatic scale. While opera can be criticised for being overwhelmingly dramatic, the comedy of the Coffee Cantata subverted this drama into a tongue-in-cheek, hilarious hour or so. The audience was charmed by the singing, of course, but also was able to put aside some of its prejudices and expectations as to the dramatic scale of the operatic form, as well as an operatic society.
This event was well worth the ticket price both for the commitment of the performers and the novelty of an event in a cafe. Despite the occasional technical difficulties of staging an opera in a space not conducive to the medium, the event worked well and was thoroughly enjoyable. I look forward to seeing what the Opera Society does next.