Opera: The Food of Life?

Toby Sims and Noa Lachman Opera Performance
Toby Sims and Noa Lachman Opera Performance

A couple of years back, the Royal Opera House website asked a pertinent question: ‘Why is opera obsessed with food?’ Now, it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to figure out why we here at TWID might have a vested interest in finding out the answer to this particular conundrum.

After all, that’s what we do and it would be fair to say we’re obsessed with both.

Our diners are treated to operatic classics while they enjoy delicious food, but we needed to find out a little bit more about why the combination works as well as it does.

Writer and broadcaster Fred Plotkin wrote: “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 Madame 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 seems we’ve stumbled on something. A 400-year-old puzzle, in fact.

Maybe it is because opera is the food of life and portrays a sort of edible art? Food and drink, it seems, are ingrained in the very DNA of opera – didn’t Katerina poison her father-in-law with rat poison and mushrooms in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk? Don’t worry, you won’t find that on our menu!

It must, then, emanate from the composers because they are the ones who included the food and drink in the first place? It isn’t surprising if this is the case. Rossini’s famous risottos were created while he composed and his recipes may have got him acclaim had his music been passed over.  Maybe we’ll add one of his creations to the menu at some point.

Verdi was a renowned farmer, producing healthy organic produce that he ate and no doubt somehow wove into his compositions. Others claim gluttonous composers just couldn’t help themselves as they wrote their classics, perhaps with tummies rumbling and dreaming of their favourite dishes.

Tosca is renowned for having his characters eating food and no Italian opera singer underestimates the importance of food in opera.

Maybe it is the people who go to watch opera who are the real influence. A feasting of sorts just feels right with opera and for many open-air productions, picnics are de riguer!

The truth is opera and food are inseparable. Maybe that’s why our diners can’t get enough of TWID’s eclectic mix of opera and dining.

Now, where did Rossini leave that recipe…?


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