6 March 2014 at 3.36pm | 2 Comments
I have been happily exploring the relationship between food, wine and opera for most of my life. The way composers and singers are inspired by food and wine makes a fascinating topic for study, although one must expect hunger pangs as a side effect!
Every opera character is nourished by something, whether we see them consume it or not. Violetta thrived on champagne. Puccini’s Bohemians starved. It begs the question - does Madama Butterfly, who lives in Japan but sings in Italian, eat soba noodles with pesto (the kind of gastronomic fusion trend that's increasingly popular among foodies)?
It's not just the characters that like their food - composers and singers have favourite dishes and entrenched beliefs about what to eat. Mozart loved sweets, Wagner dabbled in vegetarianism, Verdi was a farmer who grew his own food, Rossini cooked risotto while he composed (and was almost as lauded for his recipe compositions as his musical ones), Caruso ate spinach and chicken livers for strength, and Luisa Tetrazzini ate everything!
The audiences too - from one place to the next - are distinct in what they eat and drink before, during and after a performance. Each opera house I go to has its own traditions. In Amsterdam, almost the entire audience has soup, sandwiches and wine at the interval. In Munich they drink sour cherry juice. I love that the restaurants of the Royal Opera House often serve dishes connected not only to the seasons but also to the operas currently in repertory!