Opera Daily 🎶 — Puccini's La Bohème

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This week is all about La Bohème.

If you missed the first post in this series where we covered Act I's arias, you could find it here.

To recap, Rodolfo, Marcello, Schaunard, and Colline share a cramped attic apartment in Paris. Marcello has recently broken up with his girlfriend, Musetta. Mimì lives in the apartment next door, but none of the men have met her yet (but Rodolfo will, of course meet her and soon fall in love). Mimì is very ill, though.

Between the ideals of love and art and the cold winters, jealous feelings, and no money, two couples try to find their way.

La Bohème felt like a perfect selection for this week, given Act I happens on Christmas Eve. I loved that a member in the comments, though reminded me of some other important reasons why this week’s selection was so appropriate.

Having heard only the more famous arias, but never having seen the whole opera, "La Bohème" touched me on so many levels. It is a perfect choice for this coronavirus Christmas season when poverty, love, grief and loss have been magnified for so many. That struggling artists are at the core of this opera makes it all the more poignant, since we know that the pandemic has inflicted enormous damage upon creatives and performers affiliated with the arts.


Today we’re listening to Mirella Freni sing another one of Mimì’s arias “Donde Lieta Uscì” from the Italian opera La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini.

I have always loved this aria. Puccini is a genius, and I love how he doesn’t want Mimì to give too much when the aria begins. The aria begins how it ends, but there is a glorious moment in the middle that climaxes on a B-flat. It’s filled with so much raw emotion.

🎧 Listen here (3 minute listen):

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The situation (Mimì being sick and Rodolfo being poor) have convinced Rodolfo that Mimì would be better off without him.

Mimì sings this aria to Rodolfo right after they decide to break up. She talks about getting her things back from his place and separating without hard feelings.

Once happily leaving to your cry of love,
Mimi returns only to the solitary nest.
I return again to make flowers and bouquets.
Goodbye, no hard feelings.
Listen, listen.
The few things I’ve accumulated
I’ve left behind.
In my drawer is a small band of gold and the prayer book.
Wrap them in an apron and I will send the concierge…
Look, under the pillow there is a pink bonnet.
If you want to keep it in memory of our love, you may.
Goodbye, no hard feelings.

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  • “Quando m’en vo” (also known as “Musetta's Waltz”) is another famous aria sung by Musetta (soprano) in the time signature of a waltz. It’s very well known, especially amongst young sopranos. Musetta attempts to make her boyfriend Marcello jealous and sings how everyone always notices her beauty when she goes out. This is a famous aria and so there are many interpretations floating around out there! Here are several if you are curious: Anna Netrebko, Kiri Te Kanawa, Anna Moffo, and Angela Gheorghiu.

When walking alone on the streets,
People stop and stare and examine my beauty
From head to toe and then I savor the cravings
which from their eyes transpires
And from the obvious charms they perceive the hidden beauties.
So the scent of desire is all around me, it makes me happy!
And you who know, who remembers and yearns, you shrink from me?
I know why this is: you do not want to tell me of your anguish,
But you feel like dying!

🗣 Did we miss something important about this opera that you think the community should know? Please tell us in the comments!

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Thank you again for listening and coming along on this journey so far,

Michele

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