This aria is derived from the Bohemian counter culture which arose in Paris in the mid 1800s. The collected experiences of the artists, students, writers and the youth make up the arias in their various forms (Budden 80).
These groups rejected the common bourgeois values, which were prevalent at that time, and came up with a lifestyle which was characterized by shunning of the traditional moral values and materialism (Pritchett 29). They endeavored to work only for the artistic expression. The Puccini’s La Boheme is a story of a group of friends indulging in the Bohemian lifestyle as can be seen in the Rodolfo’s aria.
This aria contains many aspects of Puccini’s autobiographical elements depicting his time as a poor student in Milano (Budden 46). They are the years of a young man who is looking for success while, at the same time, is struggling for survival. One finds in the first Aria Rodolfo meeting Mimi for the first time, after which he responds with a tender aria, “Your little hand is cold” (Pritchett 1983).
This small first gesture of love leads to tribulations of envy, a heartbreak, loss, betrayal and, of course, love. Puccini was an excellent craftsman of emotions and language. He has used the most basic and simplest expressions so as to express the deepest emotions and feelings.
The language used in this Aria is poetic. For example, Mimi says poetically that she opens to the sun as the roses do in the garden. On the other hand, the heroine says that unlike the spring flowers, the ones she fashions so as to make a living “have no perfume” (Pritchett, 33). Further, by making herself so delicate, there is a higher possibility of Rodolfo falling in love with her.
This is a story of the young people who are guided by close kinship, youthful idealism, coming of spring time and the first love. In La Boheme, spirits soar while the emotions are rather hot. The glowing characters of Puccini win over the audience from the very start. The fact that action is taken from everyday lives makes it highly believable. Gradually, the audience is seduced into a very empathic understanding of Rodolfo, Mimi, Mussetta and the entire cast of young people. As every musical phrase passes, one falls in love more deeply (Pritchett 45). There is greater emphasis when it comes to musical expression of drama instead of the sets, movement and costumes. Majority of the themes which are introduced in the Act 1 come back in the Act 4. This helps to support the dramatic device of the two lovers who are reminiscing over their maiden meeting, while Mimi is on her death bed.
After listening to the music, one is able to understand why Puccini is several miles ahead of the other Italian composers, and almost at par with the German masters. The composition is more open to symphonic development concept. In this aria, there is a greater sense of flow and continuity. Listening to the Puccini’s aria, I underwent thematic reminiscence resulting in nostalgia, irony and heightened emotions, and it simply sweeps one away. The melody moves in small steps upwards. This is one factor which these melodies share in common with children’s songs, and the folk songs, hence, making them both ear-catching and also memorable. Therefore, the lyrics, the music and the sets literally took me to a different world (Pritchett 36). There was a sort of letting-go, as soon as the music started.
A second before the music started I was in this world, but the moment the music started, and I was elsewhere. La Boheme is atmospheric, well-plotted and contains a great duet or aria. It has a sophisticated construction which is not easily visible from the first view. Although it has been the inspiration behind works such as the Baz Luhrmann’s syrupy and the musical rent, La Boheme surpasses its derivatives.
The character in this aria focuses on the intimate settings of human emotions. One finds that all his protagonists are the category of characters to which the entire world can always relate to, because they are based on the true experiences of human beings. The whole opera is seen as a world held up between beauty and poverty. The universal appeal associated with La Boheme results from the sorrows, conflicts and joys of real human beings (Pritchett 31).
The aria remains one of the most performed, especially due to the fact that it is a timeless parable of suffering and love. This is a parable with which all categories of audience identify themselves. Like all works of art which should be educative, the aria deals with the fickle nature of youth, the passion which accompanies falling in love, and the harsh consequences when poor health attacks.