La Bohème by Puccini: true love lives on forever…

MET Opera House- Lincoln Center– Tuesday November 5th, 2019

This week, friends, the MET Opera House awaits us again, with a wonderfully romantic icon, of the operatic cannon, set in Paris; in, believe it or not, the wonderfully sentimental and bohemian, Quartier Latin; yes, you have guessed it, it is none other, than the devastatingly beautiful, charming and amorous, lovely, La Bohème; by Puccini!

So incredibly poetic and dreamy!

Welcome to another eternal love story, about love’s capacity to endure all, and tackle all obstacles…

Yay!

The only thing is that, the heroine, doesn’t get to live very long, as it happens in opera sometimes, but at least, she is mostly happy, during her simple, joyful, rich, and wonderfully poetic life.

That is definitely something to strive for!

As well, of course, as living a long, long, long life, filled with wonder and delight, and overflowing with love!

Yay!

And Zeffirelli’s production, although fairly classical, was still, wonderfully compelling and romantic, just as the libretto by Puccini’s usual side kicks, Giacosa and Illica, based on the Henri Murger novel “Scènes de la vie de Bohème”; just perfect, “La Bohème”, this 4 acts opera, to describe a passionate, timeless, enduring, haunting, indelible love story, between young artists in Paris’ Quartier Latin neighborhood.

No other opera than “La Bohème”, depicts the joys and woes, of life, love and illness, as well as the deep emotional significance, hidden in trivial things such as a bonnet, an old overcoat, a chance meeting with a neighbor; all things that make up our everyday lives; the kind of “verismo” opera, that Puccini loved to describe, and made him, the leading composer of his generation.

And what incredible and immortal music, and arias, all beautifully conducted by Maestro Marco Armiliato!

Yay!

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And last Tuesday night, Ailyn Pérez, the American Soprano, as the delicate, sweet, loving, amorous Mimi, totally devoted to her Rodolfo, was wonderfully believable, and moving; as was Mathew Polenzani, the powerful tenor, as the wonderfully dashing and ravishing poet, madly in love with his Mimi; and David Biz, the Serbian Baritone, as the amazingly moving painter, madly in love with his glamorous, yet golden hearted Musetta, was also great; and so was Musetta, sang by the delightful Ukrainian soprano, Olga Kulchynska.

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So what is “La Bohème”‘s plot about?

In a nutshell, the only thing, to really keep in mind, about this beautiful and unbelievably romantic opera, is the following: it is a simple, stunning and moving story, about bohemian friendships, between a few artists (a poet, a painter, a seamstress, a singer, a musician, philosopher) all flat mates, and/or building neighbors; finding joy and inspiration each other; at home, and in Parisian cafés; it is also, a story, about finding as well (which sometimes strikes, without being announced), love; a love that blooms instantly and ardently, between Rodolfo the poet, and Mimi the seamstress, who both, fall deeply, and indelibly, in love with each other; after a chance encounter, in their own building; the seamstress needing help with a candle, gone out, in the stairwell.

Another love story is also depicted between Marcello the painter, and Musetta, the glamorous singer, two former sweethearts, rekindling their love; and all of these love stories, are eternal; and the first one, only really ends, because, Mimi, the seamstress, is sick; but their love story would have gone on, forever, had they been less poor, and able to afford, proper care.

And the second love story, would amuse Shakespeare, for whom, the past sometimes was prologue, which, roughly means, that what has already happened, and sometimes in eternal love, as well; merely sets the scene, for the really important stuff, which is the stuff, greatness will be made of.

Yay!

And the same could be said of Faulkner, for whom “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”.

Isn’t it also great?

Of course, sometimes, it can be transmuted, to create, even more beauty when needed, and that is, also, just, awesome.

Yay!

But this is opera, ladies and gentlemen, and as such, often, it does end, dramatically. And thankfully, one can always use one’s imagination, to believe in an alternate imaginary ending, I love doing that, why not? And I then, imagine for Mimi, a simple and happy ending; saved by proper medication, in addition to, undying love of course!

Wouldn’t that be great too?

Let’s now, listen to some of the great arias, and dream intently, in front of such beauty. And then, I’ll share some equally romantic excerpts, from the dance or singing world, which “La Bohème” evoke for me.

Yay!

But first, let’s pay attention to a few beautiful arias.

Let’s read the text first, as always:

And here, let’s listen to the poetry, that arises from Rodolfo’s sweet behavior, and loving, amorously burning heart; so moving and romantic, I am floored each time:

Enjoy!

MIMÌ
Ah! And where can my key be?

RODOLFO
Pitch dark!

MIMÌ
Unlucky me!

RODOLFO
Where can it be?

MIMÌ
You’ve a bothersome neighbour …

RODOLFO
Not at all.

MIMÌ
You’ve a bothersome neighbour…

RODOLFO
What do you mean? Not at all!

MIMÌ
Search.

RODOLFO
I’m searching.

They hunt, touching the floor with their hands.

MIMÌ
Where can it be?

RODOLFO
Ah!

He finds the key and pockets it.

MIMÌ
Did you find it?

RODOLFO
No.

MIMÌ
I thought …

RODOLFO
Truthfully!

MIMÌ
Are you hunting?

RODOLFO
I’m hunting for it.

Guided by her voice, Rodolfo pretends to search as he draws closer to her. Then his hand meets hers, and he holds it.

MIMÌ
surprised
Ah!

They rise. Rodolfo continues to hold Mimi’s hand

RODOLFO
How cold your little hand is!
Let me warm it for you.
What’s the use of searching?
We’ll never find it in the dark.
But luckily
there’s a moon,
and she’s our neighbour here.
Just wait, my dear young lady,
and meanwhile I’ll tell you
in a word
who and what I am.
Shall I?
Mimì is silent
Who am I? I’m a poet.
My business? Writing.
How do I live? I live.
In my happy poverty
I squander like a prince
my poems and songs of love.
In hopes and dreams
and castles in the air,
I’m a millionaire in spirit.
But sometimes my strong “box”
is robbed of all its jewels
by two thieves: a pair of pretty eyes.
They came in now with you
and all my lovely dreams,
my dreams of the past,
were soon stolen away.
But the theft doesn’t upset me,
since the empty place was filled
with hope.
Now that you know me,
it’s your turn to speak.
Who are you? Will you tell me?

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Let’s now, listen to this beautiful and awesomely romantic aria, from Rodolfo the poet, for his sweetheart, the lovely Mimi; a charming seamstress, who loves embroiding lilies and roses, and who falls head over heels, for her poet, as he declares his flame, as he will soon find out:

Isn’t it just wonderful ?

Just ravishing…

And let’s now, discover her own reaction. Let’s read the text first, you’ll see, she paints a simple, poetic, and authentic picture, of who she is.

Enjoy!

MIMÌ
Yes.
They call me Mimi,
but my real name’s Lucia.
My story is brief.
I embroider silk and satin
at home or outside.
I’m tranquil and happy,
and my pastime
is making lilies and roses.
I love all things
that have gentle magic,
that talk of love, of spring,
that talk of dreams and fancies –
the things called poetry …
Do you understand me?

RODOLFO
Yes.

MIMÌ
They call me Mimi –
I don’t know why.
I live all by myself
and I eat all alone.
I don’t often go to church,
but I like to pray.
I stay all alone
In my tiny white room,
I look at the roofs and the sky.
But when spring comes
the sun’s first rays are mine.
April’s first kiss is mine, is mine!
The sun’s first rays are mine!
A rose blossoms in my vase,
I breathe its perfume, petal by petal.
So sweet is the flower’s perfume.
But the flowers I make, alas,
The flowers I make, alas,
alas, have no scent.
What else can I say?
I’m your neighbour, disturbing you
at this impossible hour.

Doesn’t it evoke delicate, romantic, poetic, amorous, simple, fragrant, ambrosial, inspiring, and joyful butterflies?

To me, of course, it does.

Romantic sigh…

As does, this simple and delicate poem, by Faulkner:

Why do you shiver there
Between the white river and the road?
You are not cold,
With the sun light dreaming about you;
And yet you lift your pliant supplicating arms as though
To draw clouds from the sky to hide your slenderness.

You are a young girl
Trembling in the throes of ecstatic modesty,
A white objective girl
Whose clothing has been forcibly taken away from her.

So evocative of Mimi for me.

Don’t you think?

And now, let’s discover another aria, featuring a different personality, with Musetta, a more fiery, self confident, gorgeous, and complicated woman; and nevertheless, a charming love bird, as well.

Yay!

Let’s first read the text:

….

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!

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Let’s now, listen to the superb Olga, who was already, as she did last Tuesday, portraying this amazing personality, in Spain, a few years ago; you will see, this scene, is a treat, in “La Bohème”, as Musetta, just like Mimi, is a great character, but differently, than Mimi; Musetta is an equally charming “mermaid”, in her own unique, seductive, and complex way:

Enjoy!

And I love, that Puccini, as the story unfolds, makes his characters evolve; Mimi grows in seductiveness, and Musetta is tamed by love. And the heroines, along with their “heroes”, are all, able to lead, simple, yet mostly also, rewarding lives; thanks to their various artistic talents.

And there is an authenticity about them all, which reminds me of a few quotes, from Carson Mc Cullers “The heart is a lonely hunter”:

“My advice to you is this. Do not attempt to stand alone …The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.”

“All we can do is go around telling the truth.”

How about that?

Isn’t it so true?

Isn’t it wonderful?

Let’s now, listen to one of the saddest arias, where Mimi is leaving Rodolfo, but don’t worry, their love is sufficiently strong, so fortunately, they will get back together, very soon after.

Still, this aria, always breaks my heart, since these two love birds, so genuinely, adore each other.

Let’s read the chilling text first:

MIMÌ
Whence happily she came
at your call of love Mimì
will return to her lonely nest;
she’ll return once again
to embroidering imitation flowers.
Goodbye; and no hard feelings.
Listen.
Gather up the few things I left about.
Shut in my drawer
is that little gold ring,
and my prayer book.
Bundle everything up in an apron
And I’ll send the concierge.
Look, under the pillow
you’ll find the pink bonnet.
If you want to, keep it as a souvenir of our love!
Goodbye, goodbye – and no hard feelings!

RODOLFO
So, it’s all over!
You’re leaving me, my little one,
Farewell, dreams of love!

MIMÌ
Farewell, sweet wakings in the morning!

RODOLFO
Farewell …
…life of dreams!

MIMÌ
Farewell, reprimands and jealousy …

RODOLFO
… that a smile from you would disperse!

MIMÌ
Farewell, suspicions,…

RODOLFO
… kisses …

MIMÌ
… stinging bitterness …

RODOLFO
…that I, like a true poet,
would rhyme with tenderness!

MIMÌ
To be alone …

MIMÌ, RODOLFO
… in winter is a terrible thing!

MIMÌ
Alone!

MIMÌ, RODOLFO
But in spring there is the sun for companion!

MIMÌ
The sun for companion!

Let’s now listen to this beautiful, yet devastatingly sad, aria:

Just so sad…

And thankfully, they get back together, and since she has been very sick, she nevertheless is capable, of offering her Rodolfo, until the very end, her courage, love, and tenderness, before ultimately dying; in his arms, in their bed; so soulful, and so heart breaking.

But the beautiful thing is, that they have learned, the importance of trust, just like, in this wonderful tune, by the extraordinary Etta.

https://youtu.be/1zYWVHIS1i4

Rodolfo and Mimi understand also, that they need to look out for each other, with every day, small and simple poetic gifts, from the heart; instead of just living, and letting live; as in this beautiful song; but in my opinion, this song is not realistic, about the fact that relationships, do indeed, need everyday small attentions, to keep the “fire” alive; and thus, allows then, for constant, increased mystery, love and poetry, for all eternally devoted, and amorous lovebirds.

Yay!

Let’s still, listen to this beautiful song…

https://youtu.be/krdgIxPXoWY

And attention to love, as Rodolfo and Mimi know, allows it to survive, in our society, which at times can feel, a tad mad; not always, fortunately; but you know what I mean:

Let’s now, listen to this beautiful song as well:

https://youtu.be/4N3N1MlvVc4

And in this trailer of “Le fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain” by Jeunet (2001), the heroine also, knows the importance of generosity, of childhood treasures, and of trusting, in the everlasting magic of love at first sight, as Rodolfo and Mimi, knew themselves; they knew to trust their instincts, blindly, with faith, hope and joy; concerning their eternal “spell”.

Yay!

But let’s get back to just, a few other examples, in dance, poetry and in song, which I associate also, with “La Bohème”, before ending this very long post.

Let’s start with dance; enjoy these three wonderfully romantic excerpts, dedicated to Rodolfo and Mimi:

First, from “Mary Poppins” by Stevenson (1964), enjoy this emotionally charged song, about love:

Secondly, enjoy from “The Harvey girls” film by Sidney (1946), this other beautiful, devastatingly romantic and moving excerpt, I never tire of:

And to conclude this post, here is one of my favorite poems, the last one, for this post, which Rodolfo and Mimi would love, I am sure, by E.E. Cummings:

And here it is again, in a wonderfully moving excerpt as well, from the Curry film, “I carry your heart” (2008):

Enjoy!

Soft …

Fluttering…

Joyful…

Happy …

Loving…

Eternal…

Butterflies 😊😊😊