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I’ll put it out there: I love Puccini’s La Bohème and I would argue that one of the most poignant moments in all of opera occurs during Mimi’s Act I aria Si, mi chiamano Mimi.

Mimi, a poor seamstress with a heart of gold (but a rapidly deteriorating lung condition) introduces herself to her neighbour Rodolpho, a young poet who heats his draughty Parisian garret with pieces of furniture and old manuscripts. (An ardent lover, but not exactly husband material.) It’s a quaint scene of love at first sight, the fin-de-siècle version of speed dating.

Halfway through this aria, in which Mimi begins by explaining the mundane facts of her simple life, there’s a pause that suddenly transforms her exposition into an epic outpouring of yearning:

“Ma quando vien lo sgelo / But when the thaw comes
il primo sole è mio / the first sun is mine
il primo bacio dell'aprile è mio! / the first kiss of April is mine!”

In an instant, Mimi reveals that the quest for happiness, however fleeting, is never far beneath the surface of our lives. When staged properly, with an accomplished singing actress, this moment overwhelms.

All of us, like Mimi, eagerly await the first kiss of April and everything it represents, so let’s take a moment to appreciate this aria performed by five distinguished sopranos of the modern era. In each case, I have indicated the start time of the passage described above.

Which version strikes you as the most successful? You can vote in the survey below.

1. Angela Gheorghiu, Metropolitan Opera, 2008 (2:45)

2. Renata Scotto, Metropolitan Opera, 1977 (3:00)

3. Ileana Cotrubas, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1982 (2:36)

4. Mirella Freni, Hamburg Opera, 1971 (2:50)

5. Cristina Gallardo-Domâs, La Scala, 2003 (2:52)

Vote in our survey to let us know which interpretation you prefer. And use the comments below to tell us about your favourite Mimi.

 

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Puccini’s Mimi claims the first kiss of spring

I’ll put it out there: I love Puccini’s La Bohème and I would argue that one of the most poignant mom…

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Diminuendo
#1 posted by
Diminuendo
on Mar 30, 2012

Cotrubas is my favourite (and she is currently leading your survey) but Freni and Gheorghiu also perform the aria beautifully. Happy April, everyone.

Augmented Sixth
#2 posted by
Augmented Sixth
on Mar 31, 2012

Who can resist a contest? What's nice here is that each of the singers does something different with this aria. During the "kiss of April" passage, I'm not sure why the director had Pavarotti approach Scotto, and then back away as though she had said something tragic. Gheorghiu's version is the most satisfying in purely vocal terms, but the most touching and complete performance is by Cotrubas.

dansk66
#3 posted by
dansk66
on Apr 02, 2012

Can it be that there are only 38 individuals in CANADA (or world wide come to that, this is available on the WWW!) that have bothered to vote. Apathy? or Who cares?

zoot aloors
#4 posted by
zoot aloors
on Apr 04, 2012

re: comment[#6], Hi, dansk66, speaking personally, I'm very new to Classical music as a genre, and I didn't want to dilute the vote with my untrained ear. But I care! It's good to see the community coming together as we speak on such a cool topic of discussion.

Tell you what, why don't you classical guys and gals come visit the blogs on Radio 3 sometime, and vote on one of our polls? It's a bit intimidating at first, but ultimately a lot of fun to mix and mingle. That's why I'm here!

@newnamehere, I'll bite...Why would you have excused Angie's performance?

Robert Rowat
#5 posted by
Robert Rowat
on Apr 04, 2012

@zoot: untrained or not, your ears are most welcome here at the classical music community. You don't need to be schooled in classical music to enjoy it. And thanks for the reminder about the Radio 3 community.

zoot aloors
#6 posted by
zoot aloors
on Apr 04, 2012

Thanks Robert, and newsitename for both responses! If you guys don't mind a few silly questions every once in a while, you'll certainly see more of me, and I thank you for being so welcoming.

Just for the record, when I hear 'The Barber of Seville' for instance, I usually am reminded of the Warner Brothers cartoon; so there, in plain view, is my main point of reference. I have a lot to learn!

dansk66
#7 posted by
dansk66
on Apr 04, 2012

Yes Zoot, you have a lot to learn, but if you get just a little joy from a piece of classical music you are off to a good start. I started many decades ago and I am still only on the edge of knowing a sizeable segment of only one part of the huge classical repertoire. If you enjoy this feeling of discovery go ahead slowly but surely listening to things that you turn you on. Go to as many live performances as possible no matter what size and feel that music!

Sorry the level of my knowledge of Radio 3 is currently at Zero, I'm still trying to understand Mahler.

Derek Lindner
#8 posted by
Derek Lindner
on Apr 05, 2012

Great fun Robert, I came in thinking i'd choose a familier name, only to discover and be blown away by Gallardo-Domas. merci.

Thanks for the invite Zoot. I'll be R3ing more at work if ads come to fm. Since the old Radio2 Blog's gone, I'm going to start into the three thouRadio 3 posts to find a few new sounds. It and Spark are the standard of digital permanance.

I got to tell this story. During halftime at Roy Thomson Hall, I was standing next to a lady who was rolling her eyes at her husband hunched over, squirreling through the Mahler section. With my late twenties wisdom, I said to her 'it's a phase, he'll get over it'.Fifteen yrs later I'm giving him a second chance, from a less obsessive stance. After all, they don't call him Goodstuff Mahler for nothing.

Kidding aside Dansk, if you're willing start as I did with 'bands' that have traditional instruments.They do have a connection to history. Esmerine, Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan, Muskox (I only like half of their uploaded pieces, but am willing to wade through it all to find something like neo-classical)

dansk66
#9 posted by
dansk66
on Apr 06, 2012

Hi Again Zoot, here is a bit of advice, but I don't know if it will work for you.

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 - 1894)

 

dansk66
#10 posted by
dansk66
on Apr 06, 2012

A blog, Classicalconvert.com   is "Classical music for non-classical people"

Zoot, maybe this is for you

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