Can somebody explain Mimi to me?

Mimi’s hiding behind the bottle of wine

The heroine from La boheme, that is. Why are we supposed to care? Is this – finally!!! – a story about the good girl next door where – finally!!! – the cheeky, sexy one has to take the sidekick spot? Looks like Musetta can do her own rescuing.

Why is Mimi so popular? Because we feel sorry for her? I’ve been told “the music is so beautiful”, but I’ve always struggled to remember how stuff like Si, mi chiamo Mimi and Che gelinda manina goes. I do – unsurprisingly – have a better idea about Musetta’s aria.

Through the opera Mimi is massively passive belying her initial boldness of visiting Rodolfo and pretending she’s lost her key. Immediately after this somewhat lively entrance she settles into the role of Rodolfo’s girlfriend. There’s a bit of drama midway through where she wants to spare him heartache by passive-aggressively breaking up with him when she knows she’s dying. So she’s continuously lying to him in one way or another but it’s ok because she means well and she deserves a bit of happiness, doesn’t she? You’d think she could’ve got her happiness without these unnecessary lies. But then there’d be no plot. Because it’s the 1800s and Musetta is a bit too bold to take centre stage.

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on August 5, 2015, in operatic damsels in distress and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 68 Comments.

  1. this is part of project-take-emil to opera? 🙂

  2. Trying to explain why people like Puccini is like trying to explain why people voted for Rob Ford. One can articulate all the reasons but they still don’t make any sense.

  3. I could never get into La Boheme either. It was one of the first operas I ever saw (age 12, school trip to dress rehearsal at Seattle Opera) and at the time I was like – eh, whatever. Over twenty years later and my reaction to it is still – eh, whatever.

    • I was in a bit meh but I kind of like it territory until I heard Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo. The high notes in Che gelida manina rang out around the Four Seasons like nothing I had ever heard and I, finally, got why people get the vapours over Italian tenors.

      • I take it Verdi tenors never made that impact?

      • Funny, I never thought of there being much difference between Verdi tenors and Puccini tenors. Are they specializing that much now? They didn’t used to.

        • I don’t think it’s the singer as much as the music. Maybe I just haven’t listened to the right Verdi pieces but there don’t seem to be the same heart stopping moments and that’s said despite generally liking Verdi much more than Puccini.

          • ha, interesting! I always feel Verdi is over the top emotional (and hence hard to listen to for any length of time) and Puccini just sort of schmaltzy.

      • Puccini is mostly about chords. Once you’ve figured that out, you can pretty much tell where he’s going.

        Verdi is all (well, partly) about messing with melody. Once he gets out of his journeywork you can never tell where a melodic line is going unless he wants you to, and it’s not necessarily even with the singer. He also likes to use detail of orchestration/vocal line to flesh out character psychology, which I think is kinda cool when it comes to things like Iago creating a riot by going off the beat or our being able to see exactly where in the score Philip II loses the fight with the Grand Inquisitor.

        Sorry, fan-girling.Will go back in my corner now.

    • I’ve actually watched (the first couple of acts from) a few productions with the volume set to low 😉

  4. totally (un)related(?), i kept getting this mixed up with tosca! (not knowing the storyline to both aide greatly the confusion! i just know they’re popular but never knew what about.. , may be you can have another post “somebody explains tosca” so i can finally read? 😉

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