La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini, February, 2018


POV's Best of Youtube

Explore some of the most beautiful music in the operatic repertoire with these Youtube selections from various productions of La Bohème.


Rodolfo's Act 1 aria, Che Gelida Manina

This video is from the 1951 movie The Great Caruso, a fictionalized biography of the great tenor Enrico Caruso. Mario Lanza plays Caruso, and this scene includes an excerpt from a performance of Rodolfo's Act 1 aria Che Gelida Manina.

The first meeting of the young lovers takes place when Mimi knocks on Rodolfo's door to ask for a match to light her candle. Rodolfo is quickly enchanted by his neighbour, and he surreptitiously pockets her key in order to prolong their chat. As they continue to search for the key, their hands meet.

Che gelida manina, Se la lasci riscaldar.
How cold your little hand is! Let me warm it for you.

Rodolfo then begins to tell her about himself: he is a poet living in contented poverty. In the exceprt that Lanza sings, he adds:

L'anima ho milionaria. Talor dal mio forziere
In spirit I am a millionaire. Yet sometimes from my safe,
all my gems are stolen by two thieves, a pair of lovely eyes!
They entered with you just now! ...

Rodolfo finishes by asking Mimì to tell him about herself

There is a tendency to dismiss Mario Lanza as a product of Hollywood – a movie idol, rather than a legitimate opera singer. However, many professional vocalists spoke very highly of him, and he inspired generations of opera singers, including José Carreras and Plácido Domingo. In a 1973 interview, Maria Callas said of Lanza, My biggest regret is not to have had the opportunity of singing with the greatest tenor voice I've ever heard.

Caruso's son, Enrico Jr., himself a singer, wrote: [Through the film] Lanza became a household name: thanks to him, opera was no longer an art form for an elite group of eggheads, but was acceptable entertainment for all ... Mario Lanza was born with one of the dozen or so great tenor voices of the century ... I can think of no other tenor ... who could have risen with comparable success to the challenge of playing Caruso in a screen biography.


Mimì's Act 1 aria, Si mi chiamano Mimì

As soon as Rodolfo finishes Che gelida manina, telling MImì about himself and hinting that he is already falling for her, it's Mimì's turn to chime in.

She tells him she is called Mimì, though her name is Lucia; she is Rodolfo's neighbour; she lives by herself and is a seamstress. She loves gentle, beautiful things, poetry and flowers and the first warmth of spring.

Mirella Freni is Mimì in this scene from a 1965 production at La Scala, conductedby Herbert von Karajan and directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Gianni Raimondi is Rodolfo.


Rodolfo and Mimì: Act 1 duet, O soave fanciulla

Rodolfo's friends call up to him to come join them at the Café Momus. He promises that he will follow along shortly. As his friends head off to save them a place, Rodolfo turns to Mimì and begins an exultant love duet.

O soave fanciulla, o dolce viso di mite circonfuso alba lunar
Dearest girl, your lovely face is bathed in moonlight

José Carreras is Rodolfo, with Canadian soprano Teresa Stratas as Mimì in a 1982 production at the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by James Levine, with Franco Zeffirelli's staging.


Musetta's Waltz, Quando m'en vo' soletta, Act 2

In provocative contrast to the love between Rodolfo and Mimì is the stormy relationship between Musetta and Marcello, epitomized in this scene at the Café Momus. As she dines with her new lover, Alcindoro, Musetta does everything she can to capture the jealous attention of her old lover, Marcello.

As Musetta sings about the many people who admire her beauty and desire her and fret for her, the onlookers comment: Alcindoro wants Musetta to keep quiet; Mimi can tell that poor Musetta is clearly in love with Marcello.

Quando me n'vò soletta per la via,
When I stroll out alone along the street.
The people stop and gaze at me,
to seek out my beauty from head to toe...

There's little doubt that Musetta's efforts will work, and when she is finally able to get rid of Alcindoro, she and Marcello reconcile.

Laura Giordano is Musetta in this 2006 performance at the Teatro Real Madrid. The Teatro Real Chorus and Orchestra are conducted by Jesús Lopez-Cobos, with Giancarlo del Monaco as stage director.


San Diego OperaTalk! with Nick Reveles

San Diego Opera's Nicolas Reveles hosts an engaging introduction to La Bohème. He talks about Henri Murger and the Bohemian life; the vivid characters and beautifully crafted musical structure of Puccini's opera; and some recommended recordings of the opera.




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