Tuesday, March 04, 2014

An Operatic Dinner, 1913.

Music and dinner come together in a particularly interesting way in Richard Strauss’ opera, Ariadne auf Naxos. The first London performance of the work was reported as far away as New Zealand. From the Marlborough Express of 4 July 1913:-

An amusing feature of Dr. Richard Strauss's "Ariadne in Naxos," which Sir Herbert Tree and Mr. Thomas Beecham produced at His Majesty's Theatre, London, last month, is a dinner with music introduced to illustrate the various courses on the menu.
Dr.Richard Strauss is stated to have said on one occasion that he could set even so banal a thing as a dinner menu to music, and in "Ariadne in Naxos" he had made an attempt to accomplish the feat. With the entrances of the cooks with cash separate course music is introduced the Rhine salmon making its appearance on the table to music based on a motif of Wagner's Rhine Maidens, after which a few bars is transformed into a barcarolle.
To the leg of mutton he dedicated some bars from his own "Don Quixote," the excerpt being associated with the scene where the knight charges the sheep. The quails are served to music in imitation of birds as they might be supposed to chirrup "La Donna e Mobile," from "Riggoletto."
The music for the dance performed by a young person who jumps from the surprise omelette suggests a parody of the celebrated tragic dances from Richard Strauss's "Salome" and "Electra."

Surely some opera aficionados somewhere, sometime, have recreated this meal?

“Omelette Surprise” is another name for Bombe Alaska, although it seems unlikely that this could be concocted to allow a small person to jump out and dance for the guests. Eggs can however, be cooked in a surprising number of ways:

Eggs a la Crime en Surprise.
Take a dozen of eggs boiled hard, and cut them in two. Then take out the yolks and rub them through a hair sieve. Chop the whites very fine, and make a sauce a la crime, which is marked the same as melted butter, except that you moisten it with cream. When the sauce is well done, add to it a lump of butter, throw the chopped whites into the sauce, and season it well. Lastly, pour the sauce and whites into the dish, and cover the whole with the yolks, which you baste with a little butter, and make them brown with a red hot shovel or salamander.

The French Cook, by Louis Eustache Ude (1822)

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