One of the most popular ways to mark a special event is to prepare a large meal, invite a number of friends, and celebrate—having a feast is as old a civilization itself. Despite the church’s warnings about the dangers of eating and drinking too much, frequently referred to as gluttony, it almost seems to be an inevitable side-effect.
Early song often celebrated eating and drinking (even to excess) but rarely, if ever, warned of its dangers.
One of the more remarkable and comical works to feature food and drink is by 17th-century Italian composer Giovanni Batista Fasolo (whose last name means “bean”). The work is titled “Serenade in the Lombard dialect, sung by Lady Gourmandise to my Lord Carnival with three interlocutors…that is to say—Sguizzon de Liquidis, Saion Coco, and Bacchus.”
“Lady Gourmandise” is noted for her incredible appetite. She sings “I like doves, capons, pheasants, partridges, and small ducks. I take and slice croquettes, chickens and hens, geese and suckling pigs, quail and partridge… I want no more radishes, chicory, lettuce, turnips, they’re no good for my [insides]. Listen: all I want is mascarpone, tripe with mint, gnocchi and lasagna, ravioli and polenta.”
Henry Purcell famously depicted drunkenness at beginning of the opera “The Fairy Queen,” based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The drunk in question is poet who becomes the center of ridicule. Maybe, Shakespeare was sending us a message…
Another side-effect of too much eating is flatulence. German composer Johann Heinrich Schmelzer depicted it in his Sonata a 5 al giorno delle correggie, written to mark a yearly event during his day when nobles held a “bean feast” for their employees. Schmelzer comically gives the well-known sound effect to the bassoon.
Entitled Humori (“Humors”), the Canadian ensembles Les Voix Baroques and Consort Les Voix Humaines have come together in an ATMA label recording of music for Carnival and Lent, including composers Monteverdi, Vecchi, Scheidt, Bataille, and many others.