La bohème contains some of the most famous opera music ever written, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular with audiences across the globe. Puccini created this opera around a story that already existed – ‘Scènes de la vie de bohème’ by Henri Murger. It follows the tragic love story of Mimi and Rodolpho, in the most romantic city in the world, Paris, set to a beautifully romantic score…
Che gelida manina ‘What an icy little hand’
Although their love is doomed from the beginning, Mimì and Rodolfo meet and fall in love instantly. But they know from the offset that there is a time limit on their love as Mimì is ill and neither of them are in a position where they can afford medicine. Upon meeting for the first time, the first song from La bohème plays: ‘Che gelida manina’ which translates in English to ‘What an icy little hand’ as they both try and fumble around for a house key to let Mimì into her room.
Sì, mi chiamano Mimì ‘Yes, they call me Mimì’
As the couple continue to talk to each other, Rodolfo asks Mimì about her life and in response, she sings ‘Sì, mi chiamano Mimì ‘which translated into English is ‘Yes, they call me Mimì’. She tells him all about the simple life she leads as an embroiderer as he listens to her intently. It’s at the end of this song that the pair realise they have fallen in love with one another.
O, soave fanciulla ‘Oh, sweet little lady’
‘O, soave fanciulla’ or in English, ‘Oh, sweet little lady’ is the song that follows Mimì and Rodolfo’s realisation that they are in love. The dramatic nature of this piece of opera music is enhanced by the fact that Mimì is bathed in moonlight and looks lovelier than ever. Rodolfo asks to spend some more time with Mimì at her lodgings but she refuses and suggests that she accompanies him to Cafe Momus instead.
Quando m’en vo ‘Musetta’s Waltz’
Arguably the most famous song from La bohème is ‘Quando m’en vo’, more commonly known as ‘Musetta’s Waltz’. This song is sung by the character Musetta who is Marcello’s on again, off again girlfriend. During this number, Musetta is trying to get Marcello to realise what a catch she is and how irresistible she is to all men. This trick works in Musetta’s favour and Marcello does indeed fall back into her arms realising his feelings for her. It is also during this song that Mimì realises that her friend really does love Marcello. Talk about a love triangle!