Cantata Caffeinata

Sop solo, Bar solo, SATB choir, Soprano sax, Percussion, Organ

Music by John Muehleisen
Libretto by Charles A. Silvestri

Commissioned by the American Guild of Organists
for the Biennial National Convention in Seattle, Washington, 2022

Duration: 26 min.

  1. OPENING COFFEE CHORUS: “Hot steam rises from my cup”
    Coffee Lovers (choir), Ensemble
  2. RECITATIVO al TELEFONO: “Yes… No…. I guess so…”
    The Applicant, Ensemble
  3. DOUBLE ARIA: “Oh, to be a barista!”
    The Applicant, Ensemble
    a. Canzone della Scala Triste (Song of the Sad Ladder) – Passacaglia
    b. Canzone dell’Artigiano in Schiuma (Song of the Artisan in Foam) – Waltz
  4. RECITATIVE: “Now is the time”
    The Applicant, Organ
  5. DINTERLUDE (in Café Caffeinata)
    Café Caffeinata Employees + Customers (choir), Ensemble
  6. RECITATIVE: “We’re short-handed again today.”
    The Manager, Café Caffeinata Employees (Soloists from Choir), Ensemble
  7. ARIA (Reverie in the style of a Sarabande): “Here at Café Caffeinata”
    The Manager, SSA Trio (soli), Ensemble
  8. RECITATIVE: “One more interview…”
    The Manager, The Applicant, Organ
  9. DUET: “Here at Café Caffeinata” / “Oh to be a barista!”
    The Manager, The Applicant, Ensemble
  10. CLOSING COFFEE CHORUS: “Countless ages we have seen”
    Coffee Lovers (Choir), The Manager, The Applicant, Ensemble

Roles + Voices

  • The Manager – Soprano
         A frazzled coffee house maven
  • The Applicant – Baritone
         An aspiring barista
  • SATB Choir
         Coffee lovers, customers, and employees of Café Caffeinata

Instrumental Ensemble

  • Bb Soprano Saxophone
  • Percussion (Suspended Cymbal, Sizzle Cymbal, Crash Cymbals, Snare Drum, Triangle, Glockenspiel, Vibes, Old Fashioned Car Horn)
  • Organ

Recording credit (below):  Premiere performance at the 2022 American Guild of Organists Convention in Seattle, WA. Jocelyn Claire Thomas, soprano (The Manager); Zachary Lenox, baritone (The Applicant); Fred Winkler, soprano saxophone; Rob Tucker, percussion; Amanda Mole, organ; and choir of employees and customers of Café Caffeinata conducted by Anne Lyman.

FULL SCORE (Original version)

NOTE re. 2024 Revised Version:: Since the original premiere, the score for Cantata Caffeinata has been revised and will be available in mid-July. Please contact the composer directly at to receive a complimentary PDF perusal copy of the complete revised score free of charge.

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From the Composer
When the New Music Committee for the 2022 AGO National Convention approached me to compose a contemporary coffee cantata in homage to Bach’s work—and to Seattle’s love of coffee—I was thrilled with the idea. As I set out to find a librettist who could capture the spirit of the original, but with a contemporary sensibility, I immediately thought of Tony Silvestri, who enthusiastically signed on. As with our previous collaboration, I found Tony’s witty libretto to be wonderfully inspiring, and the music just flowed out of me.

I started with a deep dive into Bach’s cantata, his organ works, and Baroque cantata form in general. As a result, there are numerous similarities with the Bach: both have10 movements, both utilize recitatives and arias, and so forth. Unlike Bach’s cantata, ours features a choir in several movements, and the choice of instrumentation is “updated,” substituting soprano saxophone for flute or oboe and adding percussion, with the organ serving as both strings and continuo.

Musically, the work is eclectic, ranging from my own style to parodies of JS Bach, minimalism, Rossini, Orff, and PDQ Bach to my musical theater background. There are also numerous “easter eggs“ (hidden surprises) that listeners will hopefully recognize in the music and libretto. Tony and I hope our little entertainment will afford you the opportunity to smile, to laugh, and to feel lighthearted after such a challenging couple of years.
                                                                                           – John Muehleisen (September 2021)

From the Librettist
To create the Cantata Caffeinata I started with Bach’s premise for the original Coffee Cantata and updated it to a familiar, somewhat whimsical 21st c. setting. I enjoyed exploring a word play that added to the humor and whimsy of the libretto, one that combines the influences of the original Picander, with flashes of Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Giancarlo Menotti, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The cantata features (1) a disillusioned member of the corporate class who longs to leave his cubicle behind for a life of artistic fulfillment as a barista; (2) a frazzled manager of the coffee house who laments how difficult it is to get good help these days; and (3) the over-caffeinated crowd in the café who order their pretentiously complicated beverages while extolling the praises of the magical bean. Will the businessman leave the corporate ladder to become an artist in foam? Will the long-suffering manager find an employee worthy of the Café’s high standards? Will the caffeinated crowd ever shut up?

I am grateful for the opportunity to work again with John Muehleisen, especially on such a fun commission. Now pour yourself a steaming mug of java, sit back, and enjoy Cantata Caffeinata!
                                                                                           – Charles A. Silvestri (September 2021)

A man, fed up with the drudgery of his unfulfilling career in Big Business, longs to become a barista in the local coffee house, the Café Caffeinata. He dreams of what it might be like to become an artist in foam as he heads to the café for his interview. Inside, the crowd bustles about, working on projects, ordering complicated beverages, and generally fraying the last nerves of the exhausted Manager, who also has been conducting interviews for a new barista. She is proud of the quality and artistry of the Café’s creations and hopes to find a barista who shares her love of all things caffeinated. The interview goes smashingly well, and each finds what they wanted most: a dedicated employee, and the chance of a lifetime to be an artista!