Hoopskirts, Coffee, and the Changing Musical Prospects of the Bach Women

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Article: “Thirteen years later and well after Anna Magdalena’s official retirement from her position as court singer, Johann Sebastian Bach directed in Leipzig the first performance of the Coffee Cantata (BWV 211), a vehicle for a highly skilled soprano in conditions that Bach scholarship has generally assumed spoke against public participation by women. Further, the work’s libretto called into question the notion that women might articulate a position of independence through engagement with the fashionable world and a concomitant disavowal of paternal authority. This was a musical entertainment that staged family tension, patriarchal anxiety, and the problem of unwed daughters—all serious themes, notwithstanding the veneer of humor generated by its lampooning of contemporary consumer culture and in particular the fashion for coffee and hoopskirts. As I will propose here, the Coffee Cantata might well have offered a dramatic role to one of the composer’s own daughters; if so, the work reflects an ambiguous light both onto the female musicians of the Bach family and, more generally, onto women and performance in mid-eighteenth-century Lutheran Germany.” 2013. Not open source.

by: David Yearsley

  • Listing ID: 2098
  • Resource Type: Article/Paper
  • Geographic Area: Europe
  • Audience: undergrad + grad
  • Century: 1700-1799 (18thC)