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19th Century Opera and Cheese Cake

This Thursday I am going to the Opera.

In 2012 this statement makes perfect sense. The only question to ask is, ‘what are you going to see?’

This weekend I am going to the footy.

This statement is a lot more confusing. What sort of footy am I going to? Soccer, AFL, League, Union? Only by telling you which stadium I am going to would you have more of an idea.

This analogy may seem strange on a blog about music history –but in the 19th century making a blanket statement about going to the opera would have made no sense. People’s next question would have to be ” what sort” – Grand Opera, Opera Comique, Bel Canto Rescue Opera, just to name a few. Saying what opera house you were attending would help the situation, just as mentioning the footy ground today would. Grand Opera at the Paris Opera, Opera Comique at the Opera Comique….

Throughout the 19th century new types of opera evolved to suit the tastes and ideals of the new wealthy middle class. Opera was no longer being written to emphasis the prestige of the monarch but to reflect the values of the bourgeois. They demanded to see themselves portrayed on stage – and in a positive light. Composers and libretti who had once been the voice of the aristocrats were now the voice of the Middle Classes.

If one traces the development of opera in the 1800′s, starting with Rescue Opera at the end of the 18th-early 19th century ( the most famous being Beethoven’s Fidelio), to Puccini’s obsession with Verism (the truth) at the turn of the 20th century, the changing landscape of this turbulent period becomes obvious. The new educated masses fall in love with Bel Canto – beautiful singing, flock to the Paris Opera to hear and see the next spectacular composed by Giacomo Meyerbeer, the Lloyd Webber of the day, celebrate the concept of Italian unification with Verdi and finally become entranced with Wagner’s Music Dramas.

More operas were written between 1815-1860 than any other period in history.

This class on Romantic Opera is the last class in the series Reaction, Revolution and Romanticism. I thought my cake needed to be something rich, dense and creamy – like so many Romantic Operas. How could you go past cheese cake!!

Fortunately or unfortunately my mother – in –law makes the world’s greatest cheese cake and my mother make the most impressive (she has made this cake – my favourite all time cake – once in the last 15 years!!). So deciding to make one was really like taking a leap of faith. Luckily for me Frank Camorra (the chef and owner of Mo Vida Bar de Tapas Melbourne) had a recipe in last weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald. It looked too easy not to try and I have to say it was OMG amazing. Next time, I think I will make 2 cakes out of the one batter as it is HUGE. It was still quite blubbery in the middle when I took it out, but mine solidified (not a great word to use in a cake recipe!)

La Vina’s Famous Cheese cake

  • Grease 1 or 2 tins and line with baking paper on base and sides

  • 7 whole eggs

  • 1kg Philadelphia cream cheese

  • 400g castor sugar

  • 1 tablespoon flour

  • 500g cream


  1. Preheat oven to 220C

  2. Crack eggs and mix

  3. Using an electric mixer mix cream cheese until smooth (harder than it seems)

  4. Add beaten eggs slowly making sure all egg is incorporated into the cheese before adding more.

  5. Add sugar, flour and cream – blend well

  6. Pour into lined cake tins and bake for 50mins (this will be less if making 2 cakes)

  7. Leave to completely cool before taking out of the tin.

Frank Camorra warns that the cake gets a dark look but don’t be scared, it gives it a yummy caramel taste.

Enjoy, Love me


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