Categorized | Entertainment

‘The Kona Coffee Cantata’ debuts in Schenectady


The locally created comic chamber opera “The Kona Coffee Cantata” receives its New York State premiere in Schenectady June 6 performed by the Musicians of Maalwyck, a critically well-regarded chamber orchestra performing in the Albany area, the capitol of New York state.

“The Kona Coffee Cantata” was created in the early 1980s by composer Jerre Tanner, long time resident of Kailua-Kona currently residing in Honolulu, to an English verse text by the late poet Harvey Hess.

It was originally conceived to be performed on the same program as the famous J.S. Bach “Coffee Cantata” as part of Hawaii’s observance of the tercentenary of Bach’s birth in 1685.

The action of the opera takes place on a modern-day estate coffee farm. The family special roast has gone missing, and the father suspects thievery. The son of a neighbor, suitor of the farmer’s daughter, volunteers to help guard the farm, but no thief is found.

All becomes clear when the daughter returns from a trip to Honolulu. She has been selling their special roast to gourmet coffee shops in the city and has made a sizable profit.

They bring the opera to a close with a trio celebrating the impending marriage of the daughter and neighbor boy and speculative rise in profits from the continued sale of the family’s special roast.

Tanner said, “This opera is really an expression of aloha `aina for Kona and for Kona coffee itself. For many years I was the grateful recipient of monthly supplies of a family special roast and fully relished the unique flavor of Kona coffee.”

The world premiere of “The Kona Coffee Cantata,” coupled with the Bach, was given in November 1985 by the Uptown Opera of Spokane, Wash.

It has subsequently had 12 other productions across the Mainland and has been recorded by the Prague Chamber Orchestra for Albany Records.

Critics have universally commented on the score’s unique combination of Hawaiian and classical Baroque performance elements.

“I composed the music with a local audience in mind that would appreciate all the Hawaiian references in the music,” Tanner said.

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